Week 3: Behind the Scenes Manufacturing

Welcome to Week 3 of the second annual Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship!

Each week, Tom and Irene will be answering a few questions to recap their experience and provide an insider’s look at what they’re learning. (Catch up with Week 1 and Week 2)

The Fellows are about halfway through the 7-week program, and this week Tom and Irene went the behind the scenes for factory experiences with Emeco and FLOS/Lukas Lighting.

At Emeco’s factory in Hanover, PA, Tom and Irene tried their hand at the 77 steps it takes to manufacture the classic Emeco Navy Chair.

Back in New York City at FLOS/Lukas Lighting, the Fellows met with Craig Corona, founder of Lukas Lighting, to get a look at what it takes to create custom lighting projects – from conception to production.

You got to witness and participate at Emeco’s factory firsthand. What was your favorite part about the trip to Hanover, PA?

Tom: This was my first real experience in a factory, so to see the transformation from raw material into components and then products, and the wide range of processes and tools which Emeco uses as well as the skilled hand-labor which it takes to produce their chairs was great. The openness of Emeco’s factory made it really easy to see how the raw materials come in, are shaped and transformed individually, and then treated and combined to create a product. I was very glad to be able to learn about the rationalization of the production procedures within the factory which help to improve efficiency and the quality. I think it was important to see the process the factory goes through when producing a new piece with designers, using spec sheets and their experience and skills to realize a vision. This helped me to consider my future designs in terms of feasibility and manufacturing capabilities.

Irene: My favorite part of my visit to Emeco was seeing aluminum transform throughout the 77 step process. Each step was mastered by a craftsman and the material was brought to life, either pressed under 220 tons by one of the original machines or bent with new technologies such as the CNC bender. Trying a hand at grinding down welds and upholstering a seat also made me realize the amount of time and effort it takes to polish your craft. Now, when I look at any piece of original design, I know I will appreciate its carefully engineered and crafted form and recognize not only the final product but also the thoughtful manufacturing behind the piece.

What was something you learned about the design process at FLOS/Lukas Lighting?

Tom: My experience talking Craig Corona of Lukas Lighting showed me that partnering with people with specific expertise in certain fields allows you to create better, more thought out designs. FLOS’s partnership with Lukas Lighting has given them access to a huge wealth of experience in the North American market beyond just certifications, but through to the culture of work and industry within the interiors market. That’s a huge advantage which allows them to understand their potential customers, but also the people who will be fitting and wiring their products; and the more you understand, the more intuitively you can design.

Irene: Walking through the shop facilities and offices and seeing stacks of specs and renderings partnered with prototypes made me realize how much Lukas Lighting pushes the limits to discover new capabilities with its lighting solutions. I learned that in order for a design process to even begin, you need to understand the properties of materials and the extent of technologies that may be used to create a tangible product from the design vision. You can open up another book of possibilities by trying out a new sequence of LEDs with different color temperatures or testing out different felts for sound absorbance. That’s what excites me about the design process, because it’s a never-ending learning experience.

Stay tuned for more from Tom and Irene, the 2017 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellows, as they recap their experiences each week here on the blog and on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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