Development of thermophysiologically optimised office chairs, taking account of body dimensions
BÖNNIGHEIM (mh/ab) In a ZIM (Central Innovation Programme for SMEs) project, Völkle Bürostühle worked with the Hohenstein Institut für Textilinnovation to develop an innovative office chair. It has ventilation channels going all the way from the cover, through the cushioning foam to the cushion/seat support, resulting in optimised thermophysiological comfort for persons sitting on it. Furthermore, the office chairs were also adapted to meet the ergonomic needs of different customer groups.
Everyone in Germany spends an average of five-and-a-half hours a day sitting down. They spend many of those sitting on an office chair at a desk, either in an office or at home, so being comfortable while seated is very important. What distinguishes a good office chair are its ergonomic features, and its thermophysiological (heat and moisture management) and skin sensorial (sensation on the skin) properties.
When analysing the ergonomic features, the researchers began by identifying the relevant body dimensions of the target group. They used 3D scanning technology to look at standard office chairs and take virtual measurements. Then the 3D data for the office chairs was compared with the 3D body dimensions of typical members of the target group, again virtually. (Figure 1) The measured body dimensions and the contact zones with the chair, formed the basis for developing a breathable seat surface.
It was the first time that extensive data about the thermophysiological and skin sensorial comfort of office chairs had been collected. The Hohenstein Skin Model (Figure 2) was used to study the heat and moisture management of various single components and compound materials and, based on these, step-by-step improvements were made. This work led to an innovative office chair with ventilation channels going right through it. In the final stage, the chair was tested by subjects and also using the sweating manikin "Sherlock" (Figure 3). It emerged that the innovative chair allowed water vapour to pass through it significantly better than one of a standard construction (Figure 4). In the trials with subjects, their skin as they sat on the innovative chair was perceivable and measureable drier (Figure 5).
Völkle introduced the innovative rovo XP and rovo R12 chairs with ventilation channels and endorsed with the Hohenstein "Climate seat" quality label at the ORGATEC fair in Cologne.