Visitors to the recent Design Miami fair had the opportunity to see automaker Audi’s R18 Ultra Chair, a lightweight unit designed by Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram, who in 2010 collaborated with Audi on the OUTRACE robotics installation set up in Trafalgar Square in London. The current R18’s predecessor was displayed in April at the Milan Furniture Fair, where the company crowdsourced data from 1,500 testers to perfect the unit.
Comfort, lightness and durability are the driving (pun intended) concepts behind the R18 Ultra Chair, which is made with carbon fiber, carbon and high-strength sheet aluminum. The design duo drew on the expertise of the Audi Lightweight Construction Center to arrive at a very lean unit that weighs only 2.2 kilograms (4.85 lbs). This was partially achieved by excluding any superfluous materials and optimizing the components. The chair’s legs are made of folded sheet aluminum and were welded by an industrial robot using a cold metal transfer process. The chair’s seat shell is made with carbon composite materials.
For the crowdsourcing beta display in Milan, Audi used the same technology it uses in its labs to develop racing cars. Through the installation and public participation, which enabled the designers to visualize the forces at play in the chair, they collected data used to reach the final design. The process involved advanced physics simulation software, and the vast amount of data generated made it possible for the designers and engineers to analyze a wide range of load scenarios and carefully adjust and optimize several aspects of the design, such as geometry and dimensions.
Besides the chair, visitors to Design Miami could also see drawings, samples, mock-ups, molds, models and prototypes from various stages of the development process. Visitors also got a chance to see a welding robot and the R18 Ultra Chair’s namesake and inspiration, the R18 ultra racing car, which is the safety car for Audi’s ultra technology and earlier this year was seen at the Le Mans 24 Hour race.
Design Miami took place in Miami between December 5th and 9th. Audi has been the exclusive automotive sponsor of the event since 2006.