Video: Rachel Harding's Corian chair is inflated "like a balloon"

Rachel Harding's Corian chair is inflated "like a balloon"

Future Makers: London designer Rachel Harding has created a balloon-like chair by inflating Corian, a solid surface material more commonly used for kitchen or bathroom countertops (+ movie).

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

Invented by American chemical company DuPont in 1967, Corian is a very hard, non-porous and stain-resitant composite material. It is widely used in kitchens, bathrooms and even building facades.

"What a lot of people don't know about Corian is that, because it's a composite, it's actually thermoformable," Harding explains in the movie, which was filmed at a workshop outside London. "When you heat it up it, it becomes kind of like marzipan."

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

Corian is made from acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, a natural substance derived from aluminium ore.

"Often when designers use a solid surface product like Corian they just use it in its sheet form," she explains. "This is really the first time that someone has actually inflated a solid surface material."

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

Harding worked together with Phillip Hutfield, Max Klaentschi and fabricators Cutting Edge to produce her first full-scale prototype of the inflated chair.

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

She used computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling to cut out two profiles from sheets of Corian, which she riveted together, heated and then inflated in a wooden jig.

"You end up with this inflated form that looks soft like a balloon, but it's got this really hard texture like granite, which I think is really exciting," she says.

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

Harding used 3D modelling software Maya to simulate what form the inflation process would create. She then iterated various prototypes, milling the Corian at different thicknesses until she got a shape she was happy with.

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

"It's an organic inflation process combined with a very refined digital milling process," she explains. "The project is really about experimenting with a material, pushing it to its limits and seeing the future potential of that as well."

Inflated Corian chair by Rachel Harding

Harding believes that designers are becoming more interested in the process behind producing objects, rather than just the final products.


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"Rather than designing a piece from a final product perspective, you're designing the process to make it," she says. "I think digital processes are really helping designers to take back control of their manufacturing."

London designer Rachel Harding
London designer Rachel Harding

This movie was filmed at McD Marketing's Corian workshop in Pitstone, UK. All photography is by Dezeen.

Future Makers is a collaboration between Dezeen and Autodesk exploring how designers are harnessing new digital tools and advanced manufacturing technology to pioneer the future of making things. You can watch all the movies in the series as we publish them on our YouTube playlist: