Visit European trade shows such as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, in Milan; the Cologne Furniture Fair; or the Salon du Meuble and Maison et Objets fairs, in Paris, and you will inevitably be surprised by something new. During the past 15 years the Italian manufacturers Zanotta, Cappellini, Magis, B&B, and Driade, among others, have developed reputations for using technologically advanced processes and innovative materials to mass-produce designs. Air and rotational molding are just two examples of the advanced production techniques these manufacturers employ; they’re also experimenting with materials like polycarbonate, titanium, and Technogel.
The innovative designs on show this year ranged from chairs by Ron Arad, Richard Sapper, Enzo Mari, and Marc Robson, all using carbon fiber—which is lighter and stronger than steel—to more low-tech projects, such as the Campana brothers’ Favela chair made of wood collected from Brazilian shantytowns.
Most impressive is the forward-thinking company Segis, which uses cutting-edge industrial technologies to make high-quality chairs at competitive prices according to sustainable practices. The company opts for energy-saving technologies and production processes, and fully recyclable materials; reuses all packaging; and prints most of its literature on recycled paper.
Here are just a few examples of the innovative materials and processes we found at the trade shows this year.