A comfortable place to sit

Steinbeis team designs mobile back rest for outdoor folding benches

Customer-specific solutions, consultations on development and design, and the import of promotional and travel items are the focal points of the Steinbeis Transfer Center, Uniform.Design from Magdeburg, Germany. Its latest project is proof that commercial viability, affordability and practical use are not mutually exclusive: researchers have designed a folding back rest for outdoor folding benches which is made of recycled PET bottles.

Since 2010, professor Franz Hinrichsmeyer, along with Olaf Rack and his team, have been researching and developing products in various areas ranging from medical technologies to promotional items. They carry out this work in the Steinbeis Transfer Center of the Research and Development Center (German: Forschungs- und Entwicklungszentrum, FEZ) at the University of Applied Sciences in Magdeburg-Stendal. The team offers design services from conception through to development, CAD, rendering, even rapid prototyping and manufacturing.

Global Innovations Germany, a company based in Longuich near Trier, noticed the transfer center at a trade fair in Hanover. The international importer of promotional and gift items approached the Steinbeis team with the challenge to come up with an idea for a low-cost yet commercially viable item that could be used for giveaways, for example, by breweries.

The idea needed to meet several criteria in terms of stability, size, price, design, functionality, usefulness for advertising purposes and sustainability. Despite the tall order, the Steinbeis team from Magdeburg was not deterred. Once the idea of a back rest for beer benches was conceptualized, the team focused its efforts on design and construction. Various initial designs were sketched out and presented to the customer. In a second step, they were constructed with CAD software.

An in-depth meeting with Global Innovations Germany yielded a functional sample made of metal, which could be used to test its use in practice: that is, mounted to a beer bench. A structural analysis could also be performed at that point. Although getting this analysis under control proved challenging, problems were ultimately resolved through the design of a strap belt. The idea of using recycled beer bottles for the backrest was an additional argument in favor of the design, which sealed the deal for production.

And Global Innovations Germany found the design from Magdeburg convincing: after the utility patent was registered, they found a manufacturer in China to look into costs. Full of anticipation, the team is now anxiously awaiting the delivery of the first prototypes!

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