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The Evolution of Plastic Chairs and It’s Future in the Industry

Feb. 04, 2024
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Plastic chairs and furniture have many uses in today’s industry. But how did this came about? Discover more about the history and evolution of plastic chairs over the years, as well as the future insights into the development and manufacture of these furniture pieces.

The History of Plastic Chairs

For over a century, humans have found a way to utilize crude oil and revolutionized the production industry. This paved the road for the manufacturing of pliable, versatile, and easily shaped material – plastic. The world was introduced into a revolutionary material that was far more adaptable and reliable than wood, metal, and stone.

Today, plastic can be found everywhere. It is used in electronics, healthcare, architecture, infrastructures, transportation, packaging, and more. And since it is affordable, lightweight, safe, and strong material, it is widely used in manufacturing, particularly in the manufacture of furniture such as chairs and tables.

In the 1970s, for example, the Allibert Group and Grosfillex Group produced the first lightweight and stackable monobloc chairs, based on original design by Canadian designer Douglas Colborne Simson in the mid-1940s.

But before that, it was Joe Colombo who introduced the design of the world’s most common plastic chair – the Universal 4867 chair. Since there were no patents filed for it, the production quickly spread throughout the world. The chair was manufactured in countries like United States, Australia, Taiwan, Russia, Germany, France, Israel, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, and of course, China.

The name Monobloc chair is derived from the word mono (which means “one”) and bloc (or “block), which means the object was forged in a single piece, rather than being assembled from multiple pieces. It is made by injecting, heating (up to 220˚ C or 428˚ F), and melting thermoplastic polypropylene granules into a mold. Today, there are multiple variants of designs and ideas derived from the original process, but the “stackable” feature remains as it is a proven way to store large number of plastic chairs.

The one-piece chair also remains popular since it is cheap, portable, lightweight, easy to clean, and waterproof. They don’t need expensive maintenance and they can last for years.

Prior to that, the first synthetic polymer was introduced into the market by John Weley Hyatt. Plastic is a type of polymer – to be specific, it is made of a long chain of polymers. Each polymer is made up of several smaller but uniformed molecules. The synthetic polymers are considerably longer than natural ones. The length and the patterns of the polymers make them identified as ‘plastic’. The production of synthetic polymers makes them extra useful since they are easier to manipulate and recreate. Thus, this makes it possible to manufacture plenty of plastic for the creation of chairs and other pieces of furniture. This explains how plastic furniture has expanded into the market over the last few decades or so.

Plastic is considered as a revolutionary material; this is primarily because of the fact that this was the first material that was not limited by nature. Modern human civilization has innovated and produced a new material that had more adaptability than other types of materials such as stone or wood.

Even though the term “plastic” chair has derived a negative connotation in the industry as being cheap and low in quality, it is actually far from the truth. The perception of plastic chair has greatly evolved over the years as new manufacturing technologies were introduced into the market. This has made it possible to process plastic materials to create furniture pieces that are flexible so they won’t get damaged or broken easily. At the same time, they are also durable enough to withstand impact or various weather conditions (especially for plastic chairs made for outdoor use).

Plastic was also once thought of as destructive to the environment. On the contrary, plastic contributed to saving the environment from more devastation. It helped reduce the number of trees that had to be cut down to produce wooden materials for making furniture. It also provided convenience to modern humans in terms of the basic items that are now available for everyday use that are made of inexpensive plastic.

While it is impossible to pinpoint exactly how much plastic exists in the world today, it is clear to see that it has dominated the furniture market in recent decades. Plastic furniture are made out of an injection molding process. This technology has made it possible to manufacture plastic chairs and furniture at a rapid rate – up to hundreds in minutes! This has enabled plastic chair suppliers to manufacture them at mass quantities to keep up with the growing demand for this product.

At Maka Furniture, we are proud to say that the plastic chairs and furniture that we offer are manufactured using the highest standards. Our manufacturing process is compliant with the world standards to ensure that you can get good value for your money.

Growing Plastic Furniture Market

As mentioned above, plastic chairs will continue to be in demand. It is also backed statistically by furniture reports to show the exact level of demand by figures.

The Plastic Chairs Market report shows that the demand for plastic chairs is expected to grow from 2020 to 2025. The report highlighted a few important things that show positive prospects for the industry.

An increase in demand for cheap, durable, and light weight plastic furniture in various sectors is driving end-users to switch to plastic furniture from the traditional wooden and metal furniture.

The research also shows that the innovation of engineered plastics and the popularity of recycled plastics will continue to shape the future of the plastic market. With that said, the development of high-performance materials for durable plastic furniture continued the momentum of the market. To capitalize on the rising sales opportunities, manufacturers are coming up with innovative materials and modern designs.

Subsequently, the number of small businesses joining the plastic furniture market has been growing in the last couple of years. Capitalizing on the growing demand for eco-friendly products, they brought with them, new design ideas using recycled plastics.

They’re capitalizing on the growing demand for eco-friendly products by launching new designs made with recycled plastics.

The History of Plastic Design — and a Tour of the ADAM Design Museum

Intique

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INTIQUE

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Apr 29, 2019

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Not impressed that two people are ruining my photo with the design museum.

Whats ADAM design museum?

For people who don’t know, ADAM design museum is one of the most epic places to visit. If (like myself) you have a keen interest for 20th and 21st century design, this should be a place to visit on your design bucket list. The museum offers a superb collection , originally owned by Philippe Decelle, who accumulated a wonderful array of prototypes, works of art, everyday consumer products and major pieces of importance. Its based in the beautiful city of Brussels and is just a 5 minute walk away from the famous Atomium, which is an extraordinary structure built in 1957 and is definitely worth a visit! 😁

The Atomium

The popularity of plastic

Having first been commercially invented in 1907, the 20th century saw the start of a huge demand for plastic (though we were, at the time unfortunately unaware of the devastating impact this demand would have on our fragile environment). Plastic was part of the economic boom and coincided with the start of a generation who rejected their parents traditional views and fashions. The need and desire for inexpensive materials reflected the baby boomers call for freedom, and plastic furniture, accessories, lighting, electronics, dinnerware and even clothing was produced in its millions. The swinging sixties was a new era, unlike anything the world had seen before — they were relaxed, lighthearted, less constrained and certainly less conservative! This was probably due to the end of the post war depression and it was now time for people to enjoy themselves, if you know what I mean!

The impact of plastic

The golden era of plastic continued all the way through till 1973, the year of the oil crisis. Plastic nowadays is constantly being reappraised and renewed and we are now able to recycle most plastics. This however, does not make it a material which we should use in the quantities we are doing. Its a material which is has a huge environmental impact on our world and we should all consciously be using alternatives where ever possible. Okay, rant over (I’ll save this for another blog), now let’s talk about the furniture….

The Universale Chair — Joe Colombo

The famous Universale Chair by Joe Columbo greets you as you enter the first room. Designed in 1965 — the first chair to ever be cast using only one piece of ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic. Originally the chair was going to be made using aluminium, but with the popularity and relatively cheapness of plastic, Columbo opted to use ABS instead. Upon completion of the prototype in 1967, manufacturer Kartell launched the production process and the chairs were produced in their thousands. It was a hugely popular design due to its pop art style, huge range of colours, multipurpose use and stack-able, space saving nature.

Red and yellow and pink and green….

One of the main things I love about 20th century plastic furniture is the wonderful array of colours, something you see everywhere you turn at ADAM design museum. I love bright colour, it makes me happy, whether it’s in furniture, food, fashion or nature. If you’re reading this and love mid century furniture like I do, I would imagine you’re the same! Furniture with a bit of colour is a great way to add character and personality to a room, and plastic furniture gives even more of an opportunity to do so. For the majority of plastic furniture from this era, the edges are curved instead of angular giving a more playful, childlike feel to the design. Not only will it make you smile every time you see it, its also extremely practical, versatile and great if you have young children! Don’t get me wrong, its certainly not to everyone’s taste, and it is not necessarily the easiest thing to make it look right in your home, but it’s fun to be daring and a little different — go out and find that piece of furniture which will add a bit of colour and happiness to your life!

From mahogany to Bakelite to plastic

Entertainment has evolved immensely over the past decade. Only 100 years ago, the family’s main source of entertainment was gathering round an oak cased record player and listening to classical music. Then saw the creation of Bakelite (the first form of plastic) which offered the first radios and later on, televisions. The ADAM museum displays a great collection of electrical’s made from plastic-ranging from some of the first radios and record players to more modern laptops and phones.

Human inspired seating

One of the more bizarre collection of pieces exhibited in the museum was the group of seating which was all based on the human form. My favourite was the “Man Chair”, designed by Ruth Francken, completely tearing down the boundaries between sculpture and functional object. It was designed and created in 1971 and was made by directly applying plastercast onto a male model and then making it into a functional chair. My girlfriend described the chair as “creepy”as it resembles a seated male without the face however in my opinion, despite it being a little odd, it is one of the more clever, thought provoking designs housed in the museum.

Cantilever chairs through the ages

The cantilever chair

Nearly a century after its creation, tubular steel remains the prime choice for cantilever chairs — cantilever meaning, rather than having the traditional four legs, the chair is supported at the front by one or two legs which are then bent backwards in an “L” shape. Marcel Breuer (designer of the Chesca chair) being perhaps the master of this design technique, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Brno chair) and Alvar Aalto (Model 31) are also historical figures who contributed to the popularity of this type of chair.
But where did the plastic cantilever chair come from? Even if you were not familiar with mid century furniture, it would be hard not to recognise the S chair designed by Verner Panton — iconic in every way and as such has been reproduced in its millions over the years. The next design in our line of Cantilevers — after a few copies of the S chair — was the Selle chair (the red chair in the middle), designed by Jean Dudon . Many other chairs have hit the market in recent years, but for me the Myto chair (the last red chair on the right), designed in 2006 by German designer Constantin Grcic is one of the most innovative designs since the S chair. Its made using liquid plastic “Ultradur High Speed” more commonly used in the car industry but lesser known in the furniture market. It was made using only one cast and has all three qualities a cantilever chair needs; light, resistant and flexible. Not only is it a fantastic design, it is also 100% recyclable!

You’re never too old for toys right?

Certainly not these ones anyway. Plastic changed the world of toys, it offered designers an alternative to the usual materials like tin, wood or metal. Some toys that were initially designed for children, are now worthy participants in the design world. Take the Eames elephant for example — was designed for kids to play with, yet a sweet baby blue one sits proudly in my living room and is one of my favourite purchases. Or how about the famous Eero Aarnio puppy, is it a sculpture? A stool? A toy? The beauty of its design means it can be whatever you want it to be and can be kept wherever you want it to be, including sat in my sister’s garden to keep her real dog Albert company.

I’ve touched briefly on my personal favourite bits of the ADAM design museum but believe me, there’s plenty more. If you do happen to be in Brussels and love design, then it is 100% worth a visit, but make sure to set aside a couple of hours as there’s some pieces that you will probably never see again!
Luckily for those who may not have the chance to visit, I have included a few more photo’s underneath for you to enjoy! 😘

The Evolution of Plastic Chairs and It’s Future in the Industry

The History of Plastic Design — and a Tour of the ADAM Design Museum

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