Recycled PlayStations Have Front-Row Seat in Reee Chair Design

DN Staff

April 14, 2009

3 Min Read
Recycled PlayStations Have Front-Row Seat in Reee Chair Design

Game consoles have a shelf life of about a year or two,given the public's insatiable hunger for state-of-the-art electronics. Yet,rather than let the discarded units pile up in some landfill somewhere, a smallUK-based sustainable design consultancy has established a materials source andcreated a manufacturable design that transforms unwanted Sony PlayStations intosleek, ergonomic chairs.

The Reeechair from Pli Design Ltd. gotits start on a small scale when Pli Designs was engineering a sustainable chairfor the EdenProject, a massive greenhouse and environmental center in Cornwall,England. The center wanted to create a closed loop recycling system that wouldtransform recycled plastic cups used in its restaurants and cafes into seatingthat could be deployed in the same venues. Pli delivered 50 chairs using Eden'sown plastic materials, and quickly realized it was on to something that couldbe produced on a much broader scale.

Pli began talking to Sony,the maker of the PlayStation, about recycling opportunities to expand its Reeechair vision. Sony, like all electronics equipment manufacturers, was dealingwith the WasteElectrical and Electronic Equipment regulation, a European directive thatmandates manufacturers of electronics equipment dispose of the equipment in a responsiblemanner. As a result of such legislation, Sony and others were looking atoptions for disposing of outdated equipment to help them remain in compliance,and Pli saw an opportunity to make the Reee chair go mainstream.

"In addition to being focused on creating a lean and moreefficient manufacturing operation, these electronics companies now have theadded role of taking responsibility for the goods used and discarded by theircustomers," says Christopher Pett, Pli's founder. "It's sounds simple, but it'sactually really complicated in practice."

Thanks to Pli's earlier closed-loop recycling experiencewith the Eden Project, Sony was game to come onboard as its single supplier.Having a single source for plastic was critical to engineering the Reee chairon a mass production basis.

"When using virgin plastic, it's incredibly reliable to knowwhat the performance is - what temperature it can be molded at, etc...," Pettsays. "Not so with recycled plastic, which tends to be mixed together a lot.You've got to find a way to manipulate the supply chain so you acquire asimple, pure source of a recycled product." In addition to providing a morereliable engineering material, a single source of recycled plastic also playedto Pli's sustainable focus by creating a shorter supply chain and loweringcarbon costs, he says.

Designing for Disassembly

The polycarbonate abs (PC/ABS) plastic material used in theSony PlayStation had everything to do with the way the Reee chair was designed."That blend of plastic is typically used in electronics casings and sportingequipment, but it's unconventional in furniture," Pett says. To accommodate thedimensional stability and ergonomic flexibility required for the chair, Pli andits partner, Sprout Design Ltd.,created a design where a single slatted rib part repeats itself 26 times.

There are also only two molded parts used, which simplifiesthe manufacturing process and also helps meet Pli's other big design criteria:That the chair be created and built for disassembly. "There are no materialsfixed together which require any time consuming or complex action to separate,"Pett says. "There's a steel frame and a pile of plastic, which makes itefficient to recycle without mixing any plastics." This design point alsoensures customers can easily replace broken parts on the chair without havingto replace the whole unit, extending its longevity, while also allowing theReee chair to be recycled at end of life and used to create additional Reeeoffspring, Pett adds.

Another key challenge was not over-designing the chair, thegoal being to keep the amount of plastic materials used to a minimum. That'swhere SolidWorks'SimulationXpress came into play. Using the simulation component of the 3-DCAD tool, the design team was able to ensure the Reee chair was robust enoughto support sitters without over-engineering the amount of plastic used to createthe seat's ribs. The current formula calls for the Reee chair to use plasticfrom nine recycled Sony PlayStation 2 consoles, which means each chair prevents2.4 kg of plastic from entering a landfill.

Pli expects to ship 3,000 chairs in the next year,representing 7.5 tons of recycled plastic.

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