Herman Miller Poster Child: Resident Graphic Artist

5. April 2020 23:15

By Bill Esler, Editor, IWF Network News 

His posters for the annual Herman Miller company picnic have been accepted into the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. An intriguing snapshot of the work of graphic designer Steve Frykholm, who says life at Herman Miller really has been a picnic. Frykholm reflects on his 45+ year tenure at the company and revisits his first—and now canonical—assignment on the job. 

Book Preview: "Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America" - How Materials & Technology Shaped Design

3. August 2019 22:17

By Bill Esler, Editor, IWF Network News

Yale University has published "Serious Play: Design in Medcentury America." It tracks the rise of commercial and consumer design trends following World War II as new materials and technologies enabled designers for Herman Miller and other corporations to move in vibrant new directions.

On the consumer side, following World War II, Americans began accumulating more and more goods, spurring a transformation in the field of interior decoration. Storage walls became ubiquitous, often serving as a home’s centerpiece.

Designers such as Alexander Girard encouraged homeowners to populate their new shelving units with folk art, as well as unconventional and modern objects, to produce innovative and unexpected juxtapositions within modern architectural settings.

"Playfulness" as a term of art can also be seen in the colorful, child-sized furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, who also produced toys. And in the postwar corporate world, the concept of play is manifested in the influential advertising work of Paul Rand.

Set against the backdrop of a society that was experiencing rapid change and high anxiety, the book Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America takes a revelatory look at how many of the country’s leading designers connected with their audience through wit and imagination. Edited by Monica Obniski and Darrin Alfred, includes essays by the editors, as well as by Amy Auscherman, Steven Heller, Pat Kirkham, and Alexandra Lange. 

Ann Landi, reviewing the book for the Wall Street Journal  notes, "As several contributors . . . point out, many designers . . . rejected a dogmatic modernism and hungered for something beyond rational and utilitarian motives.’The post-World War II era was marked by an acquisitive appetite, for which designers like Charles and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard devised colorful multitiered storage units, while ceramists like Eva Zeisel created charming table accoutrements to fill them.”

The book contains over 25 pages of materials checklists sourcing the numerous furnishings and designs included in its pages. 

Co-editor Monica Obniski is Demmer Curator of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which hosted a related show earlier this year. Co-editor Darrin Alfred is curator of architecture, design, and graphics at the Denver Art Museum.  Learn more or order the book at Yale>>

Is There a Growing Need for High Resolution Digital Databases of Wood Imagery?

23. July 2019 12:42

By Bill Esler, Editor, IWF Network News

Sherwin Williams Virtual Panel Studio www.virtualpanelstudio.com

As design programs grow more robust, the ability to generate realistic renderings of furnishings and projects has improved dramatically. For patterned laminates and paint colors, there is no problem matching graphics and colors in renderings - since most of these originate as digital designs prior to creating the decor laminates.

But rendering convincing versions of real solid wood and wood veneers - that's another matter.  In nature, the trees take care of creating the grain pattern for the finished work - but how do you do it digitally?

One approach and I think it's the best one, is photographing the real thing. Veneer companies have been developing controlled photographic renderings of inventory for years now - to share the look of a bundle or lot of material without buyers having to travel. Here's how  Veneer Supplies of Frederick Hill, MD describes it: 

In a lot of 20 sheets from the same bundle, the top veneer may show a bark patch and the bottom veneer may be flawless. The pictures we shown are always taken from the side of the bundle that has the most defects.....When photographing the veneers on this website, I do not use alcohol, water, or any other means of enhancing the grain or figure. I try to photograph the veneers as close to the original color as possible by shooting with white light and applying software-based color correction that is specific to our light source. 

The most widely known source for identifying wood species is www.Wood-Database.com (above) which has gradually improved and broadened the photographs it presents. It relies on woodworkers to volunteer shots of wood species with two grain directions and end grain - when available. The quality varies but is continuously on the rise.

Now there is a new and growing database of very finely resolve wood images - but this one  - Sherwin Williams Virtual Panel Studio - was established to show wood stains on various wood species. You have to be approved by Sherwin Williams to access it - and it is intended for designers, specifiers and their woodworking professionals in doing project planning. 

Sherwin Williams describes the Virtual Panel Studio is a "first of its kind online resource available exclusively for furniture, kitchen cabinet, and other wood product designers and product developers to discover, manage and share hundreds of high-resolution panel images." It is part of its Global Color Design and Design Center.

A password-protected account allows users to search, download and share the images. Request registration at oem.sherwin-williams.com/gcdc-panel-access-request

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Trends at Ligna 2019: Will We See Felder or Festool Safety Saws at IWF 2020?

31. May 2019 17:41

By Bill Esler, Editor, IWF Network News

Watching the reports filter in from Ligna 2019, the big global woodworking show that ran in  Hannover, Germany last week, we're beginning to pick up on some exciting technology revelations. 

Owing to the lead time in market channels, some of these developments could make their first North American debut at the August 2020 International Woodworking Fair.  In particular, we are intrigued by developments in table saws, with Woodworking Network reporting this morning on Ligna trends in safety saws - specifically Felder's new PCS (Preventive Contact System), and a possible development by Altendorf of a similar saw. Here's how Felder describes its development (shown in the video below):

  • Safety environment recognition with early approach detection 
    Upon detection of unexpected, fast approaches within the saw blade area, PCS triggers its safety lowering system. The safety environment encloses the saw blade and protects against access from all directions by lowering of the saw blade under the saw table at the speed of light. The functionality based on electromagnetic repulsion, which allows for an all-time extremely short response time of a few milliseconds. The PCS safety lowering works damage free and there are no reset costs. The sliding table panel saw is immediately ready for use at the push of a button. PCS works without consumable parts and therefore completely adjustment and maintenance free. 

The technology is contrasted with both the U.S.-based SawStop - now owned by Germany's Festool - and which uses a brake to instantly stop the sawblade; and Bosch, also in Germany, which uses a piston to drop the blade below the cutting level before it can do damage. Bosch lost a trade dispute that led it to discontinue import to the U.S., but the saw may be available in other markets.  

Festool showed visitors to Ligna its Festool tablesaw with flesh sensing technology (below). Festool showcased this version of its bench-mounted circular saw complete with SawStop technology to prevent operators from suffering serious cuts.

Festool-Sawstop-Ligna-2019.jpg

Festool-Sawstop-Ligna-2019.jpg

If Altendordf enters the safety saw market, it would be a natural step in its evolution since its acquisition, in 2017,  by the investor Avedon. Soon after Stiles Machinery ended its distribution agreement for Altendorf saws.  The Altendorf Group says it aims to become a supplier of high-quality machines forthe international craft businesses in the field of panel-based furniture manufacturing. In addition to its classical sliding table saws, it now sells edgebanders made by Hebrock, a company based in eastern Westphalia, Germany, whose edge-banding
machines have made an international name for themselves, and further acquisitions are planned. The Altendorf Group America was established in Mooresville, North Carolina at the beginning of 2019.

The Ligna show producers also provide their own summary of trends at the show - here's an excerpt:  

Manufacturers of wood processing machinery for solid and engineered wood concentrated on automation and integrated systems, especially on modular technologies as a gateway to digitization. The approach here is one of end-to-end digitization – with concepts spanning everything from planning and design to production and monitoring – as opposed to island solutions. The other notable feature of these new digitization technologies is that they are as easy and intuitive to use as smartphones.

Five axis aggregate

Meanwhile, robotics technology is increasingly becoming the norm across all areas of industrial manufacturing, from materials handing to collaborative processing by humans and machines, right through to surface finishing. The surface-finishing link in the value chain is becoming increasingly integrated into the overall production system. Automated guided vehicle systems are optimizing materials flows. And advanced central system control modules are intelligently managing the associated data and aggregating it quickly and efficiently for even the most demanding of single-batch production scenarios.

IMA Schelling Ligna

From the cloud technologies on show, it was abundantly clear that cloud-based data management has now fully made the transition from proprietary systems to digital ecosystems. Thanks to a growing array of digital assistance solutions, the use of production data for preventive maintenance and production planning is getting more efficient all the time. At this rate, the vision – presented at this year's LIGNA – of end-to-end cloud-based material and tool management may soon be a reality.

 

Another vision that is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality relates to networking based on standardized communication protocols for all machines. On that score, the European Federation of Woodworking Machinery Manufacturers (EUMABOIS) and the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) used LIGNA to present a framework for a new P&W (Plug & Work) standard. The framework is a joint project by eight leading European manufacturers of woodworking machinery.

Another key trend in the woodworking and wood processing industry is augmented reality – most notably the use of VR headsets and tablets to visualize work-steps and machine states.

LIGNA 2019 also presented "all-in-one" solutions that can efficiently bring together multiple standalone machines to create integrated process flows. The show likewise featured new developments in saw technology that deliver industrial safety benefits. These involve high-performance sensor systems for material detection – a new generation of self-learning scanner technology that represents an exciting initial implementation of AI in woodworking.

The highlights of the wood-based construction area of the show included the world premiere of a six-axis aggregate that can process work-pieces on all sides without repositioning. There was also a newly developed membrane press that can handle curved and uneven surfaces. And in the digital printing part of the LIGNA surface technology showcase, visitors witnessed a new software that can generate even extremely challenging decorative laminate layers, such as stone-look, in a single pass while maintaining an extremely high level of quality.

In the forestry technology section of this year's show the spotlight was on climate change, Forestry 4.0, digital machine integration, supply chain tracking, timber flow management, the use of VR headsets for machine control, and apps for various in-forest operations. Other key themes related to the development of forest access routes and new approaches to forest logistics.

The program also included an array of special zones and events that generated a great deal of visitor interest, among them the LIGNA.Forum, the LIGNA Campus, and, of course, the LIGNA Training Workshops for equipment users from the joinery, cabinetmaking, carpentry and assembly trades. And then there were the absolute visitor magnets, chief among them the Crane Driving Championships and the German Logging Championship.

The next LIGNA will run from 10 to 14 May 2021 in Hannover, Germany.