Self-Assembling Flat Pack Furniture? Check out the Programmable Table.
Great news for all lazy DIY enthusiasts out there!
You no longer need to dread wasting your weekend assembling that new flat pack table for the dining room. It looks like we are on the cusp of finally seeing self-assembling flat pack furniture that actually works.
Over the past few years we have been teased with self-building chairs but almost of all the ideas so far have fallen short of anything actually useable in every day life.
The most recent offering from the world of self-assembling flat pack furniture comes in the form of the Programmable Table, a joint venture between MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and revolutionary wood product manufacturer, Wood-Skin, whom have created a table that transitions from flat-pack to fully assembled in one gentle tug.
“The goal was to find a way of shipping a flat-packed piece of furniture that would spring to life, like a pop-up book, when taken out of its box.”
In this short demo clip, we see a hand gently lift the table so that it pops upright into its fully assembled position ready for use. According to the manufacturer, once assembled the Programmable Table can hold the weight of a man, so its no flimsy thing!
Courtesy of Wood-Skin
To understand how the Programmable Table works, we need to understand how Wood-Skin makes its product, which is best described as a sheet of wood that behaves like fabric. Each piece of Wood-Skin is fabricated from three layers, where two pieces of wood sandwich a layer of a strong, flexible synthetic textile material.
Using the companies own patented computer software, its designers have managed to create complex geometries that fold into shape, like that of origami. The computer-generated pattern is milled into the wood, creating creases that allow the material to bend thanks to the textile hidden within.
“Every line you see is a hinge,” says the company’s, CEO Giulio Masotti. Where you put those hinges determines what shape is made.
Image courtesy of Wood-Skin
This process is applied to the Programmable Table, where an elastic textile material is ‘pre-programmed’ to pull the wooden frame (or skeleton) into shape once it is pulled out of the box. The trick is in how the textile is pre-programmed. Because if you stretch the fabric without working out the shapes and mechanisms that will allow it to transform into the desired shape, “it will just jump up in a ball or some messy thing,”.
The Programmable Table consists of a wooden frame with the fabric textile laid tightly across it. Once energy is applied, such as the touch of a hand, it springs into its intended programmed shape, like that of a rubber band.
To date, the Programmable Table is the most accomplished idea that hints at a future of self-assembling flat pack furniture, where assembly is as easy as pulling the product out of the box (not good news for us Professional Flat Pack Assembly companies!)
Wood-Skin plans to commercialise the table in the near future and use the same design concept to create chairs, shelving and bigger tables. It remains to be seen when this might happen. But the appeal is most definitely there and I think this is a direction in which we are headed in terms of flat-packed furniture for the home. Although a self-assembling wardrobe is another matter!
To find out more information about this technology, visit the Wood-Skin website.