Steel Tube Bending
Published on November 25, 2013
When Mart Stam presented a merely skeletal system of screwed-together metal pipes in 1926, it was not only the birth of the cantilever chair, but also the beginning of the furniture industry’s use of bent tubular steel. Today, nearly 90 years later, robots can shape pipes however one wishes—and Austrian designer Thomas Feichtner, together with Thonet and tube bending machine manufacturer BLM, has set out to explore the limits of present-day bending technology.
This experimental process gives rise to various seating objects of which each consists of only one steel pipe, bent by a computer-guided robot within just a few seconds. This technology is used primarily in mass production, although it would certainly be capable of producing individual pieces. And this is precisely where Feichtner begins with his experiment of programming various seating objects from a single “line.” The nearly five-ton CNC bending machine can be used to bend a limited and numbered series right then and there.
The focus of this experiment is not on its output alone (the object), but also on the process by which the object is made as well as the historical context. “It fascinates me that, by just entering X, Y and Z coordinates, a constructive body can arise within just a few seconds without any handwork whatsoever. It’s essentially ‘rapid prototyping’ in steel,” says Feichtner.