The Flux Junior (1) is a child’s version of the one-piece folding Flux Chair. This innovative design was the 2008 graduation project of Douwe Jacobs. Working together with fellow designer Tom Schouten they challenged themselves to produce a folding chair made of a single sheet of material without adding anything to it or dividing it into parts. Hundreds of scale models and about 100 full scale prototypes were produced to find the perfect shape. Subsequently Jacobs and Schouten worked closely with the material suppliers, SABIC, to find the most appropriate polypropylene (PP) material for their chair. They also overcame the problem of finding an injection moulding machine able to create big enough sheets of polypropylene by building their own.
The choice of material was crucial to the chair’s design. Although seemingly simple, it relied upon the use of a polypropylene (PP) material to achieve a complex, hinged, single piece that enabled it to fold and unfold thousands of times without failing. Inspired by origami, the design incorporates living hinges. These are essentially a thin bridge of material surrounded by thicker sections, allowing a part to fold or bend and return to shape without fracturing. If the bridge is too thin it may lack the necessary strength and could tear. If it is too thick, folding will create too much stress causing the part to fracture. The particular polypropylene used is engineered so that its molecules are arranged in regular patterns or blocks which makes the material tougher and less brittle than if they were arranged randomly. A high ethane content adds to its impact resistance.
This high-performance material performs well and is aesthetically pleasing. It is light in weight and yet the folded structure can support weights of up to 160kg for the adult chair. Factors which lessen the chair’s environmental impact include the fact that it folds flat for efficient bulk transportation, which reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption, and that it is made of a single material making it easier to recycle.
The Flux chair won the New Venture Award and the Philips Innovation Award and went on to become the winner of the 2011 Grand Designs Product of the Year Award.