Anatomy Of A Design: Timbur Dives Into Digitally Fabricated Furniture

Ezra Ardolino, Founder & President of Timbur, joins us to discuss the design process in creating the Stack collection of laminated digitally fabricated furniture. Made in the USA using FSC certified plywood and designed to minimize material waste, Stack offers a unique perspective on the conception and production of contemporary furniture.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Ezra Ardolino: On the fabrication side of our business, we were doing a lot of interesting work with a technique called stack lamination that allowed us to build up large volumes of material from sheet stock.

Once we were serious about launching a product design division, we saw stack lamination as an opportunity to use a method that is core to our knowledge as a fabrication company while allowing us to present ordinary materials in completely new and innovative ways. Thus, our first collection, Stack was born.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Ezra: The schematic concept for Stack developed over a number of years and is a product of both my personal imagination and interests as well as the collective experience we as a team have gained throughout the years fabricating for others. The design development phase however, from the time we decided to move forward with Stack to the time we had product to show, was about 18 months. Interestingly that time spent developing the first iterations of Stack spawned a wealth of additional ideas about materiality, form, process and detail that we continue to pursue.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Ezra: I had this image in my mind of solid wood furniture made out of tree trunks, so we called a bunch of local tree services and asked them to drop off their logs, then got to work machining them.

After lots of trial and error, we ended up pivoting to an entirely new fabrication technique (stack lamination) and used different raw materials. However, the original vision – cylindrical wooden forms that look like they were machined from a log – remained the same throughout. What makes Stack so interesting is that it takes two seemingly disparate ideas – machined tree trunks and stack-laminated plywood – and combines them to make something that feels both natural and fabricated at the same time.

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Ezra: We wanted to create furniture that appealed to both residential and hospitality designers, offering them unique and expressive pieces that explore the contemporary landscape of materiality and fabrication technology.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Ezra: As its name suggests, Stack is produced using a fabrication technique called stack lamination – a method we’ve been using for years to build up large volumes of material from sheet stock. In the case of Stack, this process oscillates between additive and subtractive fabrication. First, full sheets of Baltic birch plywood are 2D machined into rough shapes using our 3-axis CNC router. These pieces are then stack-laminated (pressed) into large blocks that approximate a larger form (ie. chair, stool, bench). Finally, these blocks are machined back down using our 7-axis industrial robot, sanded to an exceptionally smooth and finished with waterborne acrylic paints.

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Ezra: Failure is necessary and success is utterly dependent upon it. The two have an interesting, interconnected relationship. Our first instinct was to use our industrial robot – a transplant from the auto manufacturing industry – to machine pieces of furniture from actual tree trunks sourced from local tree services. So we tried it, and failed; mainly due to the high moisture levels found within recently downed trees which led to exceptionally high weight, moisture weeping, checking and fungal growth. Ultimately the experiment, while momentarily a failure, was a huge success as it provided a seed for design inspiration and ultimately challenged us to develop a material system (stack-lamination) that has become the foundation of the pieces you see today.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Ezra: We are a digital fabrication studio that uses advanced robotic and CNC manufacturing methods to create uncommon objects and distinctive projects for major brands, retailers, designers and artists. We thrive on solving unique and complex challenges for the built environment and experimenting with robotics as a source for re-imagining the natural world.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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