Flexible structural components can be much lighter than standard structures, giving them a greater capacity for dynamic human interaction. This project asked the question: how might we create an interactive experience that highlights flexibility, strength, and lightness?
The simple structural behaviors of bending and buckling open wide-ranging possibilities for form-finding and self-stabilizing strategies that can inform new structural systems and adaptive mechanisms. With these behaviors in mind, our project started off with an investigation into a basic structural element that holds up a table top: a single support rod at the center of the table. With only a single rod, there is a high tendency to bend outwards due to the gravity of the table top. Intentionally bending the support to predict the movement caused by weight of table top, we created counter-directional bent supports that mimic a cambering structure to hold the table in an equilibrium state.
The use of ultra-flexible fiberglass rod is key to our table design’s flexibility and lightness. The ability of this material to withstand the table’s weight while retaining flexibility and mobility allowed us to place the table’s function in new contexts. As part of our investigation into how this structurally minimal design could facilitate new interactions, we redesigned a labyrinth game onto the table top, making it a space for play.
The ultra-flexible table base is a perfect platform for an extra- large remake of the labyrinth game designed by Swedish toy company Brio. The increased scale of the game allows for a larger number of players and game-modes.
The table’s assembly is simple and straightforward. Each fiberglass rod passes through the central node and slots into the underside of the tabletop before returning to the central node, uniting the three primary components of the table.
The design began with an investigation into ultra-flexible fiberglass rods, which led to the identification of a simple geometry which could be arrayed into a structural system with built-in flexibility and symmetry. Multiple aggregation techniques were studied to determine the most efficient design for the table base. The result is a table base that can accommodate extreme deflection without plastic deformation and self-centers when it is unloaded.
A 3D-printed central node was used to control shape of the fiberglass rods. By creating symmetry around the center of the table, the central node ensures a balanced stress profile in the fiberglass rods and in the table base as a whole. The shape of the node was optimized to minimize the material cost of the node without compromising performance.