Using a process similar to the footwear industry such as the JS Shoe or Nike’s Flyknit sneaker, Ikea is introducing its first piece of 3D-knit furniture, or its first 3D knitted chair. High-end design firms have begun to play with 3D knit fabrics, but Ikea will be among one of the first to introduce the process on a global scale that can be affordable to the masses. While it’s been around a while, 3D knitting lately is going towards the direction of being more main stream. Using a digital design and any customized measurement, such as the customer’s body circumference, the machine can knit a piece of clothing perfectly fit for you. Ikea’s machine can knit with wool, but also linen, cotton, and polyester, materials much more suited to furniture. The stretchy fabric created with the 3D knitting process almost imitates the comfort of a hammock and is designed to look semi-transparent and to be lightweight. The chair will be part of the Swedish furniture giant’s experimental PS Collection.
According to designer Sarah Fager who designed the 3D knitted chairs for Ikea, “We have been curious about this 3D knitting technique for some time. We have all seen it being used in those colorful sneakers and it’s a really smart way to produce things, since it’s fully automatized.” Nike’s Flyknit sneakers use the same materials and 3D knitting technology, and the popular sneakers are very comfortable to wear. Ikea’s PS 2017 Collection also includes items made entirely from recycled products, like a set of vases created using glass disposed and unfit for other use from factories in China. Much of the collection as a whole was designed on the factory floor. With Ikea working directly with the suppliers, the designers also have found ways to create comfort using as little material as possible and to flatpack furnishings more efficiently.
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This is according to PS 2017 creative lead James Futcher in an interview earlier this year. “For example, the development team was exploring the use of a flat-bed knitting machine to create a very thin, lightweight material that is not only extremely comfortable but also eliminates the need to pack and ship big pieces of foam.” A number of experimental manufacturing techniques developed on Ikea’s factory floor have been used to create the unique designs in its 2017 PS Collection, including the 3D knitted chairs. These include recycling processes for IKEA’s own packaging and manufacturing waste, which have been utilized for a homeware series that Ikea described as “no waste” products. For instance, many of the PS collection – aside from the already mentioned vases made from broken glass rejects – use recycled plastic bottles, renewable wood, recycled plastic parts, recycled palettes, and even plastic removed from oceans. The 3D knitted chairs will be available in early 2017 in pink or grey, with a white or black frame. They will cost $158 or £125 in the UK.