At Zieta Prozessdesign, the material is the star. The Polish company shows that sheet metal is not only two-dimensional but can be shaped from inside out. The sheet can unfold in a controlled manner without any external pressure. The furniture and home accessories created with FIDU technology are impressive from a design perspective and the unusual manufacturing process piques the curiosity.
Oskar Zieta, founder and designer of Zieta Prozessdesign, started his initial investigations into the properties of metals while studying architecture at ETH Zurich.
He was particularly interested in the deformation processes of sheet metal. Over time, this led to the development of FIDU (free internal pressure forming), an adaptation of the IHU (internal high pressure forming) technology used in the automobile industry. With IHU, sheet metal is bent, folded, rolled and shaped using high pressure from the outside. The idea behind FIDU technology is different: ultra-thin cut metal sheets are welded together and formed by means of internal pressure.
How does this work? The pieces of furniture are first designed and configured on the computer. Following the design, very thin sheets are cut into shape using a laser cutter. The cut sheet metal shapes are placed on top of each another and welded together at the edges. The rolling direction in which the sheets are joined together comes into play later and is decisive for the stability of the furniture – lengthwise results in greater stability than crosswise. Using air pressure or water, the two-dimensional sheets are “inflated” and then shaped into the third dimension. “In this phase of production, we speak of a controlled lose of control,” explains the designer. Controlled because the shape of the piece of furniture is completely controllable, but local losses of control are not predictable. Losses of control occur primarily at the edges of the welded sheets. The important difference between FIDU and IHU is that the manufacturing process can be done without expensive tools, so even small quantities can be produced. “You could also say that FIDU is a very romantic version of IHU,” says Zieta.
At imm cologne/LivingKitchen 2019, Zieta Prozessdesign presented models for the first time that were given a special look and aesthetic with thermal colouring. Thermal colouring is a rarely used technology, which Zieta has mastered. The heating of objects and use of high temperatures makes it possible to achieve the desired colour and bring out the surprising beauty of metal without resorting to chemical colorants or colours. Thermal colouring was used to create the new edition of the Plopp stool and finish the base of the bionic G-Table.
The idea of adapting industrial production processes and using them for furniture construction and architecture is not new. The first attempts were made by French architect and designer Jean Prouvé in the 1930s. Similar to Jean Prouvé, Oskar Zieta’s focus is also the aesthetic quality of the product. The end result of this highly technical manufacturing process is stylish, aesthetic furniture and design objects.
The furniture created by means of FIDU technology is lightweight but with much greater load-bearing ability. This is precisely where the potential for the future of architecture and ultra-lightweight construction lies. Zieta Prozessdesign has developed a four-kilometre long steel profile with “blow & roll”. Since the profile is inflated only by means of air pressure on site, little logistical effort is required to transport it. The inflated steel profile serves as the basis for various structural designs. FIDU technology is still a relatively young manufacturing process, so its future development is still exciting and diverse.