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© Formway

Formway Life chair

Working in collaboration with RMIT in Melbourne, Australia Formway applied ecodesign principles to the design of their LIFE Chair.

  • Materials selection
    • the design team aimed to avoid the use of problematic materials such as PVC
    • the foam used for the seat and arms is blown without chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are known to damage the ozone layer
    • the medium used to manufacture the foam is water
    • recycled materials were used for the metal components wherever possible.
    • the total recycled content of the chair is 52% by weight.
    • the highest recycled content is 100% for some of the aluminium components, up to 90% for some zinc components and up to 20% for ABS, nylon and acetal.
    • at this stage some of the nylon components cannot incorporate recycled content due to a loss of properties in the recycling process.  Opportunities to switch to recycled nylon are still being evaluated.

  • Manufacturing processes:
    • processes that are known to have a higher impact on the environment, such as powder coating of metal components, were avoided
      • the elimination of powder-coating not only reduces overall material consumption, it also avoids the generation of solid and hazardous waste by-products, especially the liquid wastes and processes required to pre-treat powder-coated components.

  • Remanufacturing:
    • wherever possible production scrap is reprocessed in-house,
      • for example post-industrial plastic scrap from the injection moulding process is granulated and fed back into the injection-moulding machine. 
    • all aluminium scrap is recycled.

  • Impacts on a healthy workplace:
    • the use of adhesives for the assembly process was avoided wherever possible to make the disassembly process easier, and to minimise emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the workplace.
      • VOCs are emitted from adhesives, paints and some plastics, and research has linked emissions to poor indoor air quality and ‘sick building syndrome’.
      • productivity losses of up to 6% have been identified in staff working in buildings where indoor air quality is poor and is estimated to cost companies billions of dollars annually in lost productivity (CSIRO, http://www.dbce.csiro.au/brochures/airqual)
  • Ergonomics:
    • another highly significant feature of the LIFE chair is the improved ergonomics, which will contribute to a healthier workplace and more productive workers.

  • Waste avoidance:
    • the LIFE chair weighs only 15 kg (33 pounds), which is significantly lighter than competitive products that weigh between 18 and 25 kg. 
    • LIFE also has fewer components – only 177 compared to over 200 for one competitor this facilitates disassembly, reuse & refurbishment, as well as materials recycling when LIFE reaches end-of-life.
      • such a reduction translates into approximately 18% fewer components than its primary competitor
    • one obvious example of the light-weighting strategy is the back of the chair, which is made from a knitted fabric with an optional plastic lumber support the knitted fabric has replaced the conventional plastic back with foam and upholstery fabric.

  

  • Durability:
    • the LIFE chair has been designed for durability - LIFE provides a 10 year warranty compared to the more common 5 year warranty
    • increased durability has been achieved through Finite Element Analysis and Design Validation tests specifically aimed at eliminating weak points and maximising product longevity
    • the lack of any damage-prone finishes such as powder-coating, also reduces aesthetic deterioration and the risk of premature obsolescence, disposal and waste.

  • the LIFE chair has been designed for reuse and refurbishment:
    • many of the components, including the seat and back sub-assemblies, seat, back and arm toppers, the aluminium base and the upholstery are easy to remove, replace or retrofit.

  • The LIFE chair has been designed for disassembly to assist in repair and refurbishment as well as recycling: 
    • elimination of most adhesives apart from soft tops and labels – these have been replaced with snap fits, hinge pins or spring clips which are easier to take apart 
    • a reduction in the total number of components
    • seat and back toppers don’t need tools to assemble or disassemble
    • only a screwdriver, allen key, mallet and pair of pliers are needed to dismantle the whole assembly. 
    • a reduction in the number of components will facilitate easier reuse, refurbishment and recycling.
    • In this regard LIFE out performs similar chairs currently in the marketplace
      • e.g.  LIFE has approximately 18% fewer components (@177 parts) than its primary competitors

  • The LIFE chair incorporates other features that improve recyclability:
    • most of the plastic parts have in-mould labels to help identify the different plastics so that they can be separated for recycling, the labels are from the international standard for labelling. 

  • Investigating 'take back'
    • most of the materials used in manufacturing the chair are technically recyclable (e.g. aluminium, steel, ABS, polypropylene, nylon and PU foam).
    • while a large percentage of the chair is technically recyclable, a system would obviously need to be put in place to collect, disassemble and recycle them. Formway and its partners are currently investigating the possibility of establishing a take-back scheme in certain markets

Collectively, the EcoDesign features embodied in LIFE directly and indirectly contribute to improved waste avoidance, waste reduction, reuse and refurbishment, as well as materials recycling when LIFE eventually reaches end-of-life.

For More Information

For more information visit Formway's website http://www.formway.co.nz/flash.html

For more information on the work carried out at RMIT please visit their website at http://www.cfd.rmit.edu.au