The biggest disadvantages of legacy furniture design processes are:
- The time it takes to create and iterate on the design.
- The need to almost re-start the entire process to address even the smallest change.
- The excessive lead time and cost associated with any type of “personalized” product.
The transition to 3D design processes, especially the use of integrated 3D to 2D Flattening software coupled with automated textile printing, cutting and assembly practices can have a tremendous impact on production cycle time, and profitability.
3D design: integrating mechanical and fabric component design
In the past the design of mechanical furniture components (i.e. frame and springs) and the fabrics that cover them have been done separately. This also contributed to the production issues and delays described above. New digital design, patterning and production solutions avoid these issues by allowing manufacturers to integrate all the components in a single digital environment. This article provides a walkthrough of the processes and advantages.
Step 1: creating design concepts
The product design process starts in a variety of ways. Typically, it starts with a pencil sketch that evolves into a more complete outline of the finished product. The sketch is then translated into a 3D CAD model so that all aspect of the concept can be reviewed and evaluated. 3D scans of physical samples can also be incorporated into the design capture process.
Step 2: presenting and selling the product
Seeing the product early in the process is critical to ensure customer acceptance and, in many cases, to help identify possible production challenges. The use of 3D CAD models provides a fast and simple way to present the design in a rendered view. With the integration of direct-to-client websites the furniture can even be viewed, approved and purchased without any type of physical prototyping.
Step 3: engineering the solid parts (frame and springs)
After approval comes the engineering and pre-production tasks. 3D CAD tools are well established and well known for strong solid modelling capabilities. In this example the frame and springs are modeled first. Then the cardboard section is added. Once compete this model can be used for further engineering work such as:
- Component count
- Interference checking
- Stress testing
- Production simulations
3D to 2D flattening: streamlining pattern making
At this point in the process, the digital models developed in the 3D CAD software are used to help define and perfect the soft components of the design. This chair has a wooden frame, springs, and a light cardboard planar surface in the seat. The foam is modeled on top of the planar surface. The fabric layer rests on top of the foam.