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Material Selection and Process: Office Chair Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jan 20th, 2020


It has been argued that the success of a product depends heavily on its industrial design through visual and emotional appeal to the customer. This conclusion can be drawn based on the role of technical design which in turn relies on sound information on material (Ashby and Johnson 56). For this reason the material used in production of a product is very essential to the usefulness and effectiveness of the end product.

Data on materials can be found from a wide variety of sources including data sheets from material suppliers. Other sources of data included those tabulated in hand books. These data sheets are essential as they provide a source of vital information that needs to be considered in technical design (Ashby and Johnson 56). This information includes engineering data such as stress analysis, thermal analysis, methods fro optimization and simulation.

In addition to such data there is the role of sophisticated software tools that can be used in the design process. The design process is crucial to avoid issues related to poor design interface. For example, a TV switch so cleverly integrated into the body panel it can not be located with ease, or a tap designed too smooth for soapy fingers to turn, etc (Ashby and Johnson 56).

A well designed product on the other hand will not only work well but will be easy to work with, thus user friendly. It is essential therefore to take into consideration the user friendliness of a product during design to improve the potential success of the product.

In this report the product being considered for design is an office chair. As it has been established that material selection is crucial to this process, the report will concern itself with making appropriate decisions for material selection. It is hoped that by the end of the report the major considerations will be understood and some potential candidates identified for the design of an office chair.


Ergonomics is a discipline that is concerned with the study of work performance with special emphasis placed on worker safety and performance. This discipline developed form the interests of experts in various fields including medicine, physiology and engineering. This came following the realization that many work related injuries and diseases could be avoided through improvements in design of equipment and the workspace (Jacobs 5).

The study of ergonomics is crucial as it is through such improvements that both the organization and individual can maximize performance and results (Jacobs 18). It has already been established that prevention of work related injuries is far cheaper than the treatment and potential litigation that may arise from negligence.

Within an organization the prevention of accidents and disability management are the responsibility of all members of the organization. Such initiatives success relies entirely on the continuous support and commitment of the staff and and employers (Jacobs 278).

This may be at times difficult given that occupational therapists may not be conversant with business and management concerns such as cost benefit analysis. For this reason it has been suggested that for improved acceptance it is important to consider business terms when preparing a proposal for ergonomic adjustments.

Common Issues with Poor Chair Design

It is not uncommon to receive complaints from workers whose duties require them to be seated for long hours. It is sometimes difficult to establish whether the chair itself is poorly designed or poorly suited for the individual. More often than not the case is the chair is not suited for the individual raising the question of adjustments (Jacobs 197).

A poorly designed ergonomic chair design will be difficult to adjust and has poor access to features for height, inclination, a back rest and appropriate lumbar support (Jacobs 199). As opposed to this a good seat design will thus provide stability through the buttocks via the seat pan and the to the back via the back rest. In addition to this it may necessary to provide the seated individual easy movement while seated to allow to the user shift easily to various positions.

There are three basic chair designs to consider when selecting an appropriate office chair. The first design is the fixed posture chair. This design tends to lock the user in an ‘ideal’ position by static posture settings. Alternatively the chair can be designed using a dynamic chair design which allows the user to move freely.

These allow relatively easy adjustments in the features such as the backrest and in movement. The last option is the combination chair which allow the user to lock the chair in a suitable position as well as automatic changes (Jacobs 199). Regardless of the design selected it is crucial that the chair provide a satisfactory experience to the user.

The Role of Material in Form

The material selected plays a major role in the final form of the end product. This relationship is most visible in the case of architecture. The Eiffel tower, Parthenon and Golden gate bridge are well known symbols of specific ages expressing the possibilities using varied materials (Ashby and Johnson 99). However, a change in material would render the artistic concept of the architect useless and possibly destroy the renown of these well known structures.

This direct link arises due to the forces that materials possess thus suggesting varied capabilities with each new material. Consideration must be given to the varied needs of the material in question during design to ensure the safety and suitability of the completed product.

Due to this it has commonly been quoted that ‘form follows material’ (Ashby and Johnson 101). Though chairs must meet certain mechanical constraints these are not fixed thus allowing choice in material and form of the completed chair. That being said it is clear to see that the form desired will have some effect on the choice of material.

In relation to form it is also essential to consider the organizational theme where possible. It is common for some organizations to use a theme in their premises to improve their competitive position. Such themes include sporting themes, outdoor themes that are designed to attract clientèle (Stephenson and Thurman 119). In such cases it will be essential to consider selection of a material that can be customized to suit the existing theme.

In relation to the form of material it is essential to consider several physical factors such as the size, shape and weight of the desired material (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 94). This is useful as the size is relative to the available space on the site. Thus an appropriate material will allow the company to provide an adequate number of seats within the required space. Further in relation to the shape is the complexity required to shape the material to the required dimensions.

In addition to this consideration must be made to account for the mechanical factors in relation to the material in question. This should be done because different materials will reflect varied mechanical considerations. Some mechanical considerations worth mentioning at this point include strength, ductility, modulus, fatigue strength and creep (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 95). In addition to this it is also vital to consider environmental factors and their effect on these mechanical factors.

One concerned with designing a product will typically consider the static strength needs of the product. In addition to this it is essential to know whether the product will experience a static or dynamic load and what are the parameters expected. It will also be important to consider the products ability to cope with wear and tear and if there is a need to incorporate additional material to reduce wear and tear (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 95).

Other factors in relation to material selection include processing and fabricating factors. These influence the ability or responsiveness of the material with regard to forming a shape. This is most commonly achieved by casting and deformation procedures (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 95).

Based on these factors it will be possible to assess whether the design can easily be achieved and manufactured. These factors will be useful in determination of potential production rates of the completed product. Through these factors it can be determined whether the desired quality level can be attained.

Other essential factors include the life of components and availability. The components selected are likely to be affected by environmental factors such as corrosion and oxidation which need to be considered when selecting an appropriate material. It has been reported that performance of materials based on these properties is very difficult to predict thus it is important to make such consideration beforehand (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 95).

Further, there is the question of availability of the preferred material. In some cases a material may be very well suited for a particular design but unavailable in the desired quantities. In such cases the selection of the material may have been done after identification of the first suitable material. This suggests that it is better to go through a whole range of materials while making a selection to allow for the identification of several options (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 96).

Another consideration to make when selecting material for an office chair is the personality of the product. This is best described by the color, texture, feel and form of the end product (Ashby and Johnson 116). These aspects are useful in describing the perception that will be aroused on observing the product and can be seen in the use of terms such as ‘rugged’, ‘feminine’, etc. This aspect will be heavily influenced by the nature of business the organization is engaging on the premises.

Types of Design

In selecting material for a product it is also essential to consider the type of design in question. An original design is an approach that requires the creation of a working principle from scratch (Ashby 115). In such cases it is common for the designer to be working with an entirely new concept such as the ball point pen, compact disk, etc.

In such a case the designer has no choice but to make decisions based on tests carried out and individual design decisions (Ashby 2002, 15). In such cases the designer is free to experiment with new materials that can offer unique combination of properties that enhance the originality of the design.

Another type of design the developmental or adaptive design that involves an existing concept and making some incremental improvements to the product. In the case where this is the approach used to design the chair in question it is possible to perform experiments with various existing materials.

New materials may not necessarily be appropriate as the new product need not necessarily cost much more than its predecessor (Ashby 2002,16). In many cases this approach has been the force behind major improvements in product performance.

Another approach to design that will affect the selection of material is the variant concept of design. In this case the objective of the design process would be to alter the colors, size or details of the product without making any significant changes to the function (Ashby 16).

In some cases such as change of scale the designer may change the material due to changes in performance requirements. It has been noted in other variant design efforts that a change in material can provide significant improvements in performance. For example, in the use of fiber glass to design smaller boats (Ashby 2002, 16).

Selection Procedures

Having mentioned some of the important factors to consider in selecting an appropriate material to use the report will now briefly discuss procedures to use when making a selection. One approach is the use of screening to filter from a list of possible materials (Ashby 2009, 167). In this approach the constraints act as gates and if satisfied the material passes or else it is excluded.

An example ,of a constraint is, ‘the chair must allow the user adjust height and inclinations’. Based on this therefore only materials that can be attached with components that handle such actions can be considered for the final product (Ashby 2009, 167).

After completing the screening process what remains is a list of potentially useful materials. To achieve this you need to have an excellence criteria which can be used to rank the materials (Ashby 2009, 167). This can be based on what may be defined as objectives. Performance is sometimes limited by a single property or through a combination of properties. Based on this procedure the best candidate will be the material that satisfies the greatest number of objectives.

Having established the best candidate it is also useful to provide some documentation on the material. This will include its potential weaknesses, reputation, track record, etc (Ashby 2009, 170). This documentation typically is in the form of some graphical material and case studies on the material. In addition to this there may be some information on its corrosion behavior in specific environments. Other useful information to include will be the price and availability of the material and any environmental warnings in relations to its use.

In the text above the methods of selection have focused on a manual approach to selecting the appropriate material to use. This approach to selection is useful when the constraints are not that many and thus the process is easily completed. However, when the set of constraints is long a more apt solution maybe the use of computer aided selection (Ashby 2009, 184).

This software comes with a database of records arranged in a hierarchical manner. Every record in the database contains data relating to properties of the material, and some pictorial data and sources of reference for the material. Through this scheme the data is interrogated using a search engine that provides the user systematically arranged search interfaces.

Other Considerations

Though the report has already mentioned that cost is an important consideration in the selection of an appropriate material for an office chair, there are other cost related factors that may need to be kept in mind. For example the constraint the budget places on the entire process.

Through the screening process it is possible several options may be identified. Despite of this it is necessary to keep in mind that the company has a budget for the entire activity and as such the best material may not be suitable for the budgetary requirements (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 96).

In addition to this there are other hidden costs that need to be considered in addition to the cost of the material. As mentioned earlier in the report the selection of material must take into consideration the additional effort to produce the desired product from the material (Mital, Desai, Subramaniam and Mital 96). Such costs include discrete costs such as fabrication costs. These discrete costs are likely to make major adjustments in the final figures thus resulting in selection of an alternative material.

An important consideration that has been ignored through the report but is essential nonetheless is the purpose of the product. In this case the product is an office chair but the purpose is not clearly defined. Where the chair is for the computer operator it can be expected that whereas quality is essential cost will be also very crucial in choosing the material.

However, if the seat was to be designed for the CEO of a huge multi national cost may not be a factor and thus the aspect of prestige may be considered. In the design of such a chair quality will be given the highest priority in comparison to all other factors.

Based on this approach cost becomes a less crucial factor and quality becomes the dominant requirement (Kutz 1253). Having provided some information on possible and useful considerations when selecting the materials to use in designing an office chair, the report will conclude the report.


In this report the discussion presented was focused on the considerations to make in selecting material for building an office chair. The report began by mentioning the importance of design and its role in the success of the end product. In this regard it was noted that a good design does not just consider the physical components but also the materials used in construction of the end product.

In a similar fashion the report continues to provide a brief description on ergonomics and its role in the workplace. It is observed that through a well designed and efficient workplace the degree of injury and disease can be reduced significantly. Further it is noted that through appropriate ergonomic design the cost of potential litigation can be significantly reduced. Therefore it would appear that the time taken in selecting an appropriate material is useful as it can directly influence the productivity of the organization.

The report continues to provide information that can assist in the selection of appropriate material to be used to accomplish the design process. Further the report provides some of the basic issues that arise in the case of office chairs as reported by the users. In line with this the report mentions the role of the selected material in the form of the final product. It is noted that based on a selection of material there specific constraints that the user is bound to based upon the chosen material.

Because of this above position the report concludes that material has a strong influence on the form of the final product. It is also mentioned that the type of design in this case will also influence the material selection made. In addition to this the report also touches briefly on other considerations such as prestige.

In line with this it was noted that costs such as those associated with crafting the material to the desired shape need to be considered so as not to over step the budget. Lastly it was noted that the budget will influence the choice of material in terms of expected quantity as well. It is hoped that by going through these requirements it is possible to make a suitable choice for the production of the office chair.

Works Cited

Ashby, M. F. Materials Selection in Mechanical Design. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005. Print.

Ashby, M. F. Materials and the environment: Eco-informed material choice. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2009, Print.

Ashby, Mike, and Kara Johnson. Materials and Design: the art and science of material selection in product design. Woburn: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. Print.

Jacobs, Karen. Ergonomics for Therapists. Philadelphia: Mosby Inc, 2008. Print.

Kutz, Myer. Handbook of Materials Selection. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2002. Print.

Mital, Anil, Anoop Desai, Anand Subramanian, and Aashi Mital. Product Development: a structured approach to customer product development,design and manufacture. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Stephenson, James, and Courtney Thurman. Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide. Dubuque: Entrepreneur Media Inc, 2007. Print.

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