In 2006, BASF AG had a new, high-speed version of its Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate resin ready for the market, and the company wanted a product that would help it make a splash.
So it called in several top designers to its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, and set them free to explore the resin, only asking them to come up with a breakthrough for both the material and design.
German designer Konstantine Grcic took BASF up on its offer and came up with a concept that would use Ultradur to echo a design classic — the cantilever chair. Unlike past cantilever chairs, which all relied on a tubular steel structure, Grcic's design would rely solely on the plastic to stand up to a range of users.
Molder and furniture manufacturer Plank Collezioni srl of Ora, Italy, joined the team to bring Grcic's concept to reality, launching the injection molded, production-ready Myto chair in Milan, Italy, earlier this year. Now they are bringing the Myto to North America.
``The designer, the molder, BASF — they were all incredibly, incredibly collaborative in this,'' said Kurt Hanson, executive vice president of ICF Group of Dallas, which is selling the chair in North America for Plank. ``This went from design concept to production in 14 months. That's incredible.''
Myto made its North American debut at the furniture industry's NeoCon World's Trade Fair, held June 9-11 in Chicago. ICF is working as the distributor for the chair in the U.S., and Plank is selling it under its own name in Europe.
The entire team had to work closely to make the cantilever chair work, said Joe White, BASF's marketing sector leader for engineering plastic. Grcic came up with a complicated, one-piece design that allows the chair to be produced in one shot, in a three-minute cycle, with only two gates.
The chair provides structural ribs for support, but also uses a complicated series of openings on the seat and seat back that allow the chair to flex and be comfortable.
The designer and the molder had to compromise on the size of the chair's legs near the seat base, while the resin giant had its own work to do to make its — and Grcic's — dream product.
``We had a material, but it had to be tweaked several times to meet the needs of the chair,'' White said. ``The thing that's been remarkable in this is the speed of development and the collaboration that was involved.''
The resulting chair is available in eight colors and has a sleek and modern look, but it also is comfortable. Lean back and the chair flexes with the user. It will retail for about $400, Hanson said, and is getting attention from buyers who want to put it everywhere from outdoor cafes — because it can stand up to harsh sun and weather — to prisons, because it has no metal components, so it would be difficult to turn into a weapon.
Now that other designers are getting a look at the Myto, BASF is in talks on a number of other potential uses for Ultradur High Speed.
``It's opening other guys' eyes,'' White said.