The Sacrificial Lamb

Aaron Clarkson – Designer – March 2022

So we’ve done it! We’ve taken a beautiful design that started life as a spark of imagination staring out of the window of a train or a thumbnail sketch on the back of a napkin and we’ve developed it into a real life, tangible product ready for the big wild world. That’s all there is to it right?! Wrong. 

The beautiful chair now needs to put on its boxing gloves and fight for its life in the ring, the ring of testing to Furniture Standards. 
Once we have each of our components ready from our supply chain, we assemble a complete chair for the sole purpose of testing. It stands there proud, ready for the fight, the sacrificial lamb of the furniture world. 
Now for the boring bit. Most of our furniture is tested to a standard called BSEN 16139: 2013 which is a strength, durability and safety test for non-domestic furniture. 
As a designer it’s important to know all aspects of the test right from the start of the process. This ensures I’m engineering a product that is strong and durable. Often using materials such a tubular steel for internal frames or structural plywood for seat boards and chair backs. We use professional advice from our supply chain to supplement our knowledge and make sure the design is as long lasting and safe as possible.
Now for the tests. The battle against the machines puts the furniture through its paces in various ways to ensure the product is fit for purpose and more importantly is safe for the end user. 
The safety aspect of any product is always at the forefront of our minds when designing and developing a product. The product cannot have the potential to compromise safety of our end user. Examples of this may include finger traps, where the flexibility of a frame may create a pinch point against another component or the product toppling over and causing someone to fall. To ensure this doesn’t happen the product goes through a rigorous safety check by an external professional test centre. They apply force to various areas of the chair to ensure there is no tipping or fatigue to the base which could cause it to fail. They also review the product from head to toe to remove any doubt that the product is unfit for use. 
One of other major checks, which coincides with the safety, is the products strength and durability. Often our products are placed in public areas with a high footfall. Imagine an airport lounge with hundreds of people using the product every single day. The main test the product undertakes here would be the durability test, in which the chair’s base is fixed to the floor and a set force is applied to various areas of the chair, moving in natural ways for over hundreds of thousands of cycles. Of course this force is far more than the product would actually experience but this ensures an extremely durable product and reassurance that the product is built to last. 
The best feeling in the world is receiving the email from the test centre with a certificate stating your product has passed and you can throw away the drawing board… well at least until the next project.