Because carbon fibre is generally black and invariably proffering a hi-tech look, furniture and lighting made from this ingenious material has never been a particular favourite. It’s striking, even sexy if you’re into that sort of sci-fi look but for all its luscious curves and jaw-dropping spans is it really a material that should be used in furniture, lighting and other inters related objects? Well, the answer is sometimes – but only when its not used gratuitously. I guess this is true of many materials – even wood where chairs carved from massive blocks of a precious timber (Riva 1920) or where sinuous forms are created by joining dozens of c’n’c milled parts together (Giorgetti’s Rossella Pugliatti designed ‘Move’ rocker) feel excessive and to be honest, quite gauche. Just because a company has the technical ability to do something doesn’t mean they should. Design.daily recently compiled a personal selection of interior products made from carbon fibre that really use the material in interesting ways, often to produce results that would be difficult or impossible to achieve in any other material.
When it comes to making items with immense strength while being incredibly light, carbon fibre is right up there. When carbon fibre is added to polymer to create carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) it has up to 10 times the strength of steel, is twice as stiff, while being just a one-seventh of the weight. Engineers have been building bridges with the material as early as 2008 (although to date the spans are still quite small) and the inspiring Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has used the material to tether a Japanese textile company building to the ground in an earthquake zone. Even Melbourne’s towering West Gate Bridge that spans 2.5 kilometres has had its concrete and steel construction strengthened with the stuff in 2011.
More recently the University of Stuttgart under the leadership of Achim Menges has created the Elytra Filament Pavilion from woven glass fibre (white bits) and carbon fibre (the dark bits) that was displayed in the courtyard of the V&A Museum in London at LDF 2016. The overarching inspiration for the installation was Victorian Greenhouses but the weave pattern was inspired by the forewing shells of flying beetles nknown as elytra and was made by a specially developed robotic weaving machine. This project was a collaboration between Menges, Moritz Dörstelmann, Jan Knippers and Thomas Auer.
You can obtain a good basic understanding of the project and the use of robotics in continuous carbon fibre weaving in the short film below.