Even though it was invented more than 60 years ago, carbon fiber is still an incredibly expensive material, rarely used in consumer design. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of all-carbon chairs over the past few years, but they tend to be one-off novelties, meant only for the super rich.
We may never see carbon fiber widely used, but some designers are finding a compromise between cost and strength, by infusing cheaper materials with small amounts the stuff.
One such designer is New York-based Victor Vetterlein, who became interested in the technique after designing an extremely thin stacking chair called X-Federation, named for the distinctive x-shaped backrest. As he was designing it, Vetterlein imagined the chair would be produced in laminated wood, painted black, and decorated with gold accents. But X-Federation’s sinuous, tapered arms proved too flimsy to support the weight of a body. He started researching how other industries manufacture laminated wood that can withstand heavy loads. After watching skateboarders, he found himself wondering how their wood boards could endure such intense use.
“How was it possible to have a thin slab of wood so strong to endure the punishment of a 200-pound guy skateboarding off of concrete walls?” he remembers thinking. Research revealed that deck manufacturers will often apply a very thin layer of carbon fiber to boards during the process of lamination. It was the perfect solution for X-Federation, which will be manufactured in pretty much the exact same way. So does Vetterlein skate? “I’m not a skateboarder,” Vetterlein tells Co.Design, “just curious about all things.” Vetterlein plans to produce and sell the chair on his website starting later this year.