Zip-Shape by designtoproduction
Jun 2, 2008

The innovative structure devised by Switzerland's designtoproduction has already won as many as four awards - the Design Plus Award, the Holz21 Sponsorship Award, the 2008 IF Material Award and the 2008 M Technology Award. And rightly so. After all, this new kind of molded wooden surface certainly offer immense advantages over traditional bentwood techniques.

With the aid of the " Zip-Shape" principle it is possible to manufacture surfaces bent on one side without time-consuming molding structures - and it can be achieved with almost any number of different surface materials. By dovetailing two surfaces pressed up against each other and then adapting them to the shape required, the angle of curvature can be set in such a way that the two fit together exactly.

Every production process starts with digitization of the data. To begin with, a manual curve definition is undertaken, with material thickness, tooth width, tooth height and tooth side angle as possible variables. These components are then "processed", i.e., adapted to flat materials and directly translated into a machine code for the five-axis milling cutter. The cutter now applies the indentations onto a defined surface with the saw blade in two stages. Any unevenness in the intervening spaces is removed by another cutting tool. After the PU glue has then been applied in an automated process the two surfaces are put together manually and placed in a vacuum sack for the glue to harden.

In principle, this technique can be used with all surface materials; however, to date only solid wood and derived timber products such as MDF and plywood have been tested. When solid wood is used the material's intact fibers allow for a material thickness of up to 2 mm to be processed between the dove-tailing sections. This can make for very filigree side-face views.

The technique was first used for the lounger "ZipChaise", designed by architecture and design bureau schindlersalmerón. In order to produce even narrower radii, and thus to open up even more fields of use, there are currently plans for further developing the technique so that the surface materials can be bent warm (i.e., using the effect of steam).

In "Zip-Shape" designtoproduction has come up with a rapid and cost-saving alternative to classic bentwood, one which is particularly interesting for unique specimens, prototypes and small runs of serial production in furniture-making and interior design.