Motorization in furniture may become a 'default' feature, say some hardware manufacturers in India; touch-activated or automated motors that adjust furniture, open drawers have applications in kitchen furniture, cabinetry, office furnishings and storage

NEW DELHI, India , June 30, 2014 () – Motorisation in furniture is the result of innovative use of actuators, those small motors that run silently and can even be programmed. Hardware makers consider their use as the next big thing in furniture design

Increasingly, the use of actuators is spurring hardware companies to develop motorised solutions that make furniture much friendlier to the body. The most evident benefit of motorisation is minimisation of stress that occurs from bending over, and the struggle involved in pulling open, drawers and cupboards. What's more, the growing acceptance of the concepts of 'wellness' and 'experience' at the consumer level is making sure that motorisation will not remain a rich fad, rather it will become a default feature in furniture.

How are manufacturers going about it? When asked about the practical utility of the Servo-drive range of motorised hardware, Blum India's managing director Martin Herr explained, "How often, in the middle of cooking, have you needed to open the pull-out with your hands full? Servo-drive uno is a solution that allows units to be opened with just a light touch of the hip, knee or foot. Dirty, wet or full hands are no longer a problem." Herr indicates that motorisation is driven by the need of the consumer and it enhances the usability of the product, and it's not just a fancy feature.

Elaborating the advantages that motorisation brings to the table, A K Goel, managing director of Hettich India, says, "Automation permits users of all ages and physical abilities to use their furniture to the fullest. Compact drive systems react to a light touch or tap on any part of the cabinet door or drawer and they instantly open or close, this is the power of automation in furniture. Additionally, the built-in silent system and soft closure system enhances the overall experience of the consumer."

John Frost, vice president and GM for the desk division at actuator and furniture specialist believes that special components enable workplaces to adapt optimally to body needs. "The body does not want to sit all day long, it also wants to stand and move about," says Frost. "Voices seeking comfort at workplaces are being heard globally, and demand for ergonomic workstations is on the rise. This has particularly led to an increased use of special electronic components in furniture."

Explaining the work mechanism of Servo-drive, Herr adds, "At first the idea was simply to develop a solution for handle-less fronts. For pull-outs in base units, a small lever sends out a signal and sets the pull-out in motion. Drawers and pull-outs run freely. There is no rigid connection to the drive unit. This means that kitchen users can stop pull-outs in any position and set them in motion again. Thanks to Servo-drive, lift systems in wall cabinets can have the same ease of operation. Blum's electric system not only opens wall cabinets, it also ensures that they close softly and effortlessly."

Goel believes that world over the preference is for integrated soft-closing mechanisms in drawers, hinged and sliding/folding cabinets and wardrobes. Speaking about Hettich's contribution towards this trend, he said, "Hettich contributes to the design and manufacture of furniture by constantly providing innovative and high quality products such as Sensys, Easys, ArciTech, InLine XL, Topline XL and LegaDrive. Our innovations help manufacturers deliver furniture that not only excites the consumer with its design and performance, but also helps fulfil the luxury aspirations of the upwardly mobile generation."

Goel adds that Hettich's motorised furniture range caters to not only home, kitchen and office furniture but also to upholstered furniture and beds. "A wide range of adjustable fittings provide sofas, beds and automated recliners convenient functions for back, arm rests and risers. These products were showcased at the recently concluded Indiawood exhibition in Bengaluru, and can also be experienced by consumers at our application centres in India." LINAK, whose designers developed the 'sit-to-stand' desk, has been evangelising good health at the workplace by highlighting the impact of furniture on the human body. "With the use of furniture that responds to the human body, blood circulation is improved and back muscles are worked. That is wellness for the body," Frost points out.

What are the challenges of adoption? But the question is whether the Indian furniture industry, which remains dominated by carpenters, is ready for such innovation. To work with technologically advanced products carpenters would not only need to upgrade themselves about the know-how but also the tools. Goel concurs, "Training is the only way forward; in its absence the Indian furniture industry will not be able to use the latest components. Amongst our many initiatives, we periodically hold training programs for carpenters to educate and equip them with skills necessary for installation of technically advanced furniture fittings, thereby increasing their productivity and income."

Dr Prabir Mukhopadhyay, associate professor (design discipline) at Indian Institute of Information Technology Design & Manufacturing, Jabalpur believes that technology is playing a pivotal role in the evolution of the industry. "It is helping us develop furniture products that are scoring more on the comfort front, safety and user-friendliness."

However, he also raises a concern regarding trends in furniture automation, "The problem with Indian furniture is that there is no standardisation yet. Most of the products in the country are being designed in accordance with western anthropometric dimensions. We must not forget that there are major differences between Indian body dimensions and those of other nations. This is creating a mismatch between the users (Indians) and the furniture. It has several health implications."

Nevertheless, demand for motorised furniture is on the rise and customers are willing to invest. However, the challenge is in correct adoption based on thoughtful and informed decisions by designers and the marketers of hardware. Published by HT Syndication with permission from Sourcing Hardware. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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