Nov 14 2018

A strong alternative: Lightweight furniture

Innovative lightweight boards offer a whole range of benefits for furniture construction: large furniture surfaces with low weight, outstanding stability and lower production and transport costs. They’re also opening up new avenues for manufacturers in terms of design, they’re environmentally friendly and conserve resources.

Having proven their worth in trade fair construction over many years, modern lightweight boards are now unlocking new possibilities for furniture construction and design. For example, lightweight construction techniques are allowing manufacturers to produce cupboards with extra-large doors or tables many metres in length and sliding doors whose dimensions would not be feasible with solid materials. The boards can withstand high loads and have a longer service life than chipboard when subject to heavy-duty applications.

Honeycomb structures, crosspieces or polymer foam on the inside

The versatile lightweight boards are constructed in a sandwich system. They are composed of thin outer layers of coated plastic or cardboard, which can be covered with veneer and other finishing materials. The majority of their volume is air – their inner structures consisting of vertical crosspieces or honeycomb constructions made of cardboard and paper give them high strength from little material. Another variation has light synthetic foam on the inside, with or without wood chips as a filler. Despite their low weight, lightweight boards exhibit a similar stability to solid wood, and further advantages for furniture construction are clear: the boards are not only extremely light, comparatively cheap and suitable for a wide range of applications, they also conserve resources like wood, a raw material that is becoming more and more expensive. This makes them a future-oriented alternative.

Similar stability to solid wood boards

For some time now, larger components for lightweight construction methods have also been available. They can be manufactured with a frame made of chipboard strips, so that only the centre is composed of the light material. Fittings can be affixed to the edge as in solid chipboard. Some manufacturers are attempting to forego the chipboard elements completely to achieve further weight savings. Where this is done, new joining techniques are needed, such as the use of adhesive anchor fastenings on the outer layers.

End customers favour eco-friendly solutions

Besides the reduced consumption of raw materials in their production, lightweight designs also allow manufacturers to save on logistics costs. Lower fuel consumption in the transport of boards, elements and pieces of furniture in lightweight construction is also good for the environment. This additional benefit in turn enhances the company’s image, since environmentally friendly practices are rated positively by many end customers. ((Link to the ambista article “Neo-ecology is a megatrend for furniture”))

Hidden cables and XXL shelves

Lightweight construction offers further advantages for design. Cables can be hidden from view inside the boards or modules, without having to drill any holes. Manufacturers can also integrate LED lighting fixtures within the cavities in the piece of furniture. Suspended doors or extra-long shelves that do not bend and can support heavier loads open up further design possibilities. In the case of cupboards, for example, lightweight doors can be combined with shelves made from solid wood.

Possibility of cost-saving furniture designs

Other forms of lightweight furniture construction, in which manufacturers and designers use special structures such as meshes and struts, are equally resource-efficient. These structures provide a high degree of stability with low material input, but the design work required takes longer and is more intensive than the uncomplicated, cost-saving method of furniture construction using lightweight boards.

Up to 60 per cent lighter than chipboard

Lightweight kitchens from Beeck are constructed with one third less material and weight. This is achieved by means of a hybrid process combining the patented Kettboard concept with crosspieces, honeycomb sandwich panels from Renolit and narrow chipboard components. A cardboard honeycomb core made of recycled paper makes the Eurolight lightweight board from Egger up to 60 per cent lighter than equivalent MDF or chipboard panels. Lightweight boards from Vomo also feature paper-based honeycomb technology. They are available in a veneered version and, if required, with pre-mounted fittings. ThermHex on the other hand produces honeycomb structures from polypropylene as a core material for lightweight sandwich elements. The middle layer of the “Kaurit Light” board from BASF and Swiss Krono is composed of a foamed polymer and wood chips. A special supporting edge technology is characteristic of the lightweight elements from Hunger Möbelproduktion. The process was developed to achieve maximum weight savings. And eltec offers flexible composite boards that are suitable for the production of lightweight furniture parts, furniture fronts and elements for customised interior design. 

In the manufacture of furniture and in trade fair construction, lightweight designs present a future-oriented and cost-effective alternative to MDF or chipboard. The transport of resource-efficient lightweight furniture is simpler and more environmentally friendly and its assembly uncomplicated. Furthermore, lightweight boards offer completely new design possibilities.  


Free form elements

by Eltec Elemente-Technik für Möbel und Innenausbau GmbH
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