210-IN-1 FOLDING PLEXI is a group of transparent and opaque acrylic panels hinged together. Each piece pivots in the range of -45 to 45 degrees relative to its neighbors. Cumulatively, the rotating panels generate a variety of assemblies that can be used as a coffee table, laptop stand, shelving unit, or even a mini folding screen for hanging items or writing notes with dry erase markers. FOLDING PLEXI can also be hung on solid or glass walls as a clear whiteboard or a piece of art. Because of its perforations and transparency, it does not obscure views or the penetration of daylight.
FOLDING PLEXI is inspired by architect Dror Benshetrit’s Pick Chair. Pick Chair is a cantilevered chair that retracts to a flat 2D surface once lifted, hangs on the wall as an artwork, and transforms into a 3D seat once propelled on the ground. Driven by the need for a chair to offer visitors to my cubicle at the Bahen Center for Information Technology, and limited by the tight space available, I decided to design a folding chair that takes up no floor space and also serves an auxiliary function as a clear whiteboard or a folding desktop screen. FOLDING PLEXI was designed with the same principle as Pick Chair, but using ¼” transparent and perforated opaque acrylic to maintain a modern and airy vibe. Because acrylic at such thickness is rather fragile, I relinquished the cantilever concept and added a fifth panel that folds in to support the seating panel above.
The laser cutter available at the dgp lab was too small for my project. I accordingly opted to use the cutters available at the John Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Landscape. The bed size they have is 17.75” x 31.75” (450 mm x 806mm). I sized each chair panel at 40X40cm except for the fifth one which is slightly longer (40X50cm) to accommodate for the folding in. Material-wise, I incorporated white plexi and perforated it with random circles. Due to the lack of ¼” white plexi, I cut two 1/16” panels and screwed them together to attain the required thickness. Before designing and cutting, I purchased hinges and screws from Home-hardware on College Street and tested them with smaller plexi pieces. Hinges attach to the panels through holes cut to the screw size. I drew the design and panels in AutoCAD, paying special attention to hole placements and sizing. I drew a random circle pattern to camouflage the screw holes and add an aesthetic touch. For laser cutting, power settings used were power=100% and speed=1%. Chair renderings were generated in 3ds max and V-Ray.
Each panel is attached to the adjacent ones using two 3-1/2″ stainless steel butt hinges on each side (conventional door hinges), washers, and 3/16” screws. Originally, I chose ¼” plexi because it is the thickest transparent material I found on campus that seemed durable enough. Once I started to assemble the pieces however, it proved to be both heavy and too week to support more than 70lb. Moreover, the hinges were too loose and never kept the panels at 90 degrees. I did notice though that the plexi panels can fold, take on several shapes, and maintain their assembly due to the projecting screws added for hanging purposes (see figure 7). With some patience and trial and error, I was able to generate 9 free-standing forms such as coffee tables and shelving units (see the attached slides). Due to the lack of space (and visitors) in my cubicle, I currently have the FOLDING PLEXI on the adjacent window ledge and use it to inscribe notes with markers, prop papers and other items, and post reminders.
The major challenges with this project were scale, the dead weight of the plexi, and flimsy hinges. Moreover, laser cutting ($20X2 hours), material ($7.50 per square foot), and hinges ($3 per hinge) cost over $200. Finally, the result was not the anticipated goal (chair). From a fabrication standpoint though, this 10-IN-1 FOLDING PLEXI is a novel concept, as it enables one object to take on several forms and functionalities depending on the user needs and preference.