Folded from a single sheet - Challenges in applying folding as a fabrication technique
The advent and increasingly widespread access to computer controlled design and fabrication processes has created a tremendous sense of excitement amongst creative practitioners. Whilst for many the new tools primarily offer myriad possibilities for aesthetic exploration, they also touch upon the underlying question of production. The fact that the same digital data can be used for prototyping as well as for production has led to the notion - and to many successful examples to prove it - that production of goods can be initiated by micro companies and then be scaled up to meet increasing demand. This model does indeed work well, but it implies tight constraints on the type of materials used and therefore the objects produced.
As is the case with the presented project, folding as a construction technique lends itself particularly well to an iterative way of working. Initial prototyping can be carried out in inexpensive paper and once CAD data is established it can be materialised and incrementally improved upon. Structurally, folded, typically hollow structures, tend to show a favourable weight to strength ratio. However, the serious demands on longevity in an industrial product also reveal weaknesses of this particular fabrication technique.
The presentation illustrates the development process behind the folded Zoid stool, in particular the computation of the cutting pattern, highlights problems in the transition from prototype to product, makes comparisons with other (folded) furniture products on the market, and conclusively suggests strategies to aid in designing folded structures.
Yves Ebnöther, 1974, is a Swiss industrial designer. Upon completion of his BA(Hons) studies at Ravensbourne College, London, he worked at numerous design agencies in Switzerland, including Hannes Wettstein’s office.
In 2003 he enrolled on Prof. Dr. Ludger Hovestadt’s MAS CAAD programme at ETH Zurich, where he started developing his series of experimental “prototypical products”. He subsequently founded and directed the Rapid Architectural Prototyping Laboratory RAPLAB at ETH’s Faculty of Architecture. In 2011 he moved to Singapore to set up the Prototyping Facility at ETH’s Future Cities Laboratory. Currently he lives in Zürich with his family, where he runs his own design practice, works as a lecturer and is a founding member of FABLAB Zürich.