Inflating aluminium

Everyone knows what happens when you blow up a balloon. With an injection of air, a small colourful piece of plastic or latex transforms suddenly into a larger floating object that can take on multiple forms. But what happens when someone decides to apply the same technique to other materials?
18 January, 2020
Demonstrating his pioneering creativity, a Polish designer Oskar Zieta, the founder of Zieta Studio, welded together aluminium sheets and blew them up as if they were balloons. This led to the creation of an ultra-lightweight chair, called Ultraleggera, which can hold up to 1,200 kg.

Image: Zieta
Oskar Zieta's creation, weighing less than two kilograms, is the latest take on the iconic Italian architect Gio Ponti's Superleggera, or super-lightweight, chair from 1957, which he created by stripping down a traditional Italian Mediterranean design to its bare essentials. While Ponti's version was made from light yet stable ash wood and weighed 1.7 kilograms, Zieta's consists only of aluminium and is technically optimised to weigh just 1.66 kilograms.
Image: Zieta
The chair owes its strength and durability to the way the metal is shaped. Zieta has developed its own production process known as FiDU or freie innen druck umformung. Previously used by the designer in other projects, the method involves cutting a two-dimensional outline of the chair's frame from two metal sheets, which are then welded together and inflated with compressed air. This creates an h-shaped unit, encompassing two legs and half of the backrest, which is then duplicated and welded together with laser-cut seat and back panels.

"Due to the slight undulations of the material surface, the deformation process creates a three-dimensional, stable bionic structure that is surprisingly durable," mentions Zieta.
Image: Zieta
Compared to traditional production methods, FiDU conserves both energy and material, which reveals another important characteristic of the Ultraleggara. Extremely lightweight, durable and sophisticated, the chair is made entirely from recyclable material, aluminium, which also makes it eco-friendly. According to the Zieta Studio official website the chair's "aluminum frame, seat and back keep together with aluminum welds, just like in a professional bicycle frame. This solution fulfills the criteria of reasonable resources management called the Circular Economy. It assumes manufacturing products from materials that can be retrieved and reused."

According to Dezeen, earlier this year, the design was awarded the top prize in the product category at the Materialica Design and Technology Awards.
Banner image: Zieta