Stages in the life of an office chair Part 5: Upholstery development workshop
In Part 5 of our “Stages in the life of an office chair” series, I would like to hand you over to my colleague Leo Kiefer, master upholsterer and developer at Klöber, who will show you the upholstery development workshop. This is the department where the first prototypes of a new Klöber office chair are created in close collaboration with Design and Development – about which we ran a feature in an earlier blog.
Leo, would you like to introduce yourself?
I’ve been working in the upholstery development workshop at Klöber for over 10 years. That sounds like a long time, but in our company it’s not uncommon because many of my colleagues have been here for more than 40 years (!) – and that’s a good thing! You see, our job is to visualise the ideas and drafts created by our designer – that’s you, Jörg – in the form of three-dimensional models and above all to check their technical feasibility. Thanks to years of experience and a willingness to try out new things, this has always been a mission with a successful outcome.
How exactly do you go about developing a three-dimensional model like this?
We use your drawings to produce what we call a “solid model”.
What is a solid model? Can you explain?
It’s a model of the chair that looks deceptively real but does not have any of the functions. Once a colleague even accidentally went to sit down on it and landed unceremoniously on the floor. The solid model might for example be made out of the easily formable material Obomodulan. It has properties similar to wood and can be filed, rasped or milled as well as being compatible with adhesive and paint – so as you can imagine it isn’t particularly sturdy at this stage.
What’s the next step after the solid model?
Once the solid model’s finished, the next stage is the “seat mechanics”. This is where the chair functions come into play.
Wow, that sounds complicated. What happens with that – can you explain that for the benefit of our readers?
Close cooperation with the design team is especially important here. After all, with an office chair the required functions need to be squeezed into a small space. A very slender design might look beautiful but isn’t always technically possible.
So are you saying that I keep setting you new challenges?
Yes. For example, integrating the climate function into the Mera and Moteo was a huge challenge for us: where car manufacturers have plenty of room in a wide car seat, we have to manage with the small amount of space available in the existing Mera and Moteo office chair seats. After all these models were already in production before the climate technology was added. The Klimastuhl is proof that our combination of design and function has been successful: the climate technology is elegantly integrated within the seat.
It sounds as though you have lots of fun experimenting in your work.
That’s right. Even though my colleagues and I have been doing this for so long, we haven’t lost the enthusiasm for new materials. We love experimenting and trying new things, as well as creating innovative technologies as yet unknown to the market.
Can you give us an example?
Of course. The Mera office chair is available in different specifications. One of these is the mesh back variant: the backrest is manufactured as a single piece using three-component technology. The geometry of the mesh follows the sitter’s body contours.
What’s absolutely essential to your job?
As soon as we’re happy with the solid model and the seat mechanics, that’s where my sewing machine comes in. As a master upholsterer it’s my responsibility to cut the fabrics for the chair as specified in the design and to develop a sewing technique that’s easy to implement and above all suitable for series production, the next stage.
High-quality fabrics are really expensive. How do you calculate the costs?
Calculating the future costs is especially challenging for me and this can also only be done in close consultation with the design team. For example, if a particular seam pattern is difficult to achieve, we sometimes have to drop or change it for reasons of economy. To ensure that our, or rather your, high design standards are not neglected, I then develop the new version of the seam by collaborating with…
…with me 🙂 Leo, thank you for the enjoyable chat.
So you see: close cooperation between all departments gives us all here at Klöber a significant advantage when it comes to design, function, feasibility and cost. That’s exactly what makes us so unique.
Do you have any more questions or suggestions? We would be delighted to receive any feedback.