Magazine article ASEE Prism

Curling Up in a Cardboard Chair

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Curling Up in a Cardboard Chair

Article excerpt

JOHANNESBURG-lt sounded like an engineering homework assignment: Design a chair out of corrugated cardboard that can support a 160-pound person. But there was more at stake for Helmut Lubber than a grade. This project was part of a $1.2 million contract for disposable furniture for South Africa's 1999 elections. Using Lubber's design, South African packaging company Nampak Ltd. stamped out 25,000 of what they believe is the world's first commercially produced cardboard chair.

The chair starts out as a 4 foot 5 inch by 4 foot 11 inch rectangle of doublethick cardboard, cut and perforated on the same die-cutting machines Nampak uses for corrugated boxes. The sheet breaks into seven pieces, with no wasted cardboard. The key to making this weak material bear a heavy load is a lattice of six vertical, interlocking cardboard sheets under the seat. The chair can be assembled in less than a minute. …

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