Project Description


Course: DES 396, Directed Study
Type: Research, Furniture, Design | Build
Instructor: Associate Professor Kevin Badni, Associate Professor Robb Ziegler
Special Credits: Mr. Sharrafudeen
Ms. Leen Al Ali
Mr. Suni Philip
Ms. Kenza Ayouby
Mr. Narek Mikael Koroukian
Ms. Rima Chalha
Ms. Deepali Dang


Research and examine the role of existing bespoke and mass customization manufacturing techniques and technologies in the region of residence (UAE) to help inform the design process for furniture and household accessory products. Include the design and prototype production of furniture and/or accessory products based on existing UAE production technologies through optimized design development.

Compile a report with learnt manufacturing techniques in different regional industries informing a product suitable for U.A.E based target customer. Final product/prototype design to be in­formed by manufacturing processes and detailed with Ergonomic study, Bill of materials, Industries merged, etc. to demonstrate manufacturability.

Sharjah, UAE


Learn More

1. Research manufacturing studios or factories in the local region of U.A.E (Sharjah, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah) to schedule appointments
for factory visits.
2. Visit and document information of leading 4-5 manufacturing industries local to the region.
3. Market research to identify a product line for specialization.
4. Ideation phase – Sketch design proposals for various products ideas.
5. Choose and develop product design through prototype studies.
6. Create 1:1 physical mockup of product to explore and exhibit the physical realities of the design.
7. Produce renderings and diagrams to showcase the manufacturability of product for mass production.

Initially a lot of general research was carried out on the internet and in the library regarding materials that are indigenous to the U.A.E. Various organizations, industries, studios from the region were compiled in a table to have a holistic understanding of the materials and processes currently available and operational. Out of these industries a few materials were shortlisted and companies were contacted to further explore them.

Sharjah Heritage museum

A short visit to the Sharjah Heritage museum was executed to add to the research of indigenous materials and processes carried out in the Gulf, specifically the U.A.E in the yester years. However, the main issue identified was that these materials and techniques were very laborious and required of a lot of man power. These products had predominantly been produced as one-off pieces depending upon need. These materials hadn’t been incorporated into modern large scale manufacturing techniques with exceptions for clay and brass / copper. The latter had evolved over the years into use by various companies.

Date visited : 05 Feb 2018

Purpose : To research and understand the use of materials and products used by the U.A.E citizens in the past.

ALICO – Aluminum Factory

Mr. Sunil at the ALICO facility gave us a tour of the various fabrication and assembly processes taking place at the factory. They specialize in Aluminum profiles joined with polyamide plastic (for thermal insulation) extrusions. They also make Unitized curtain wall – installed on site, Stick Curtain wall – assembled on site, Doors (hinged – sliding – push and slide), Windows and other ventures which involve the processes of extrusions, pattern stamping, curving, rolling, and small scale injection molding.

Inference from visit:

Aluminum or plastic extrusion is a fairly cheap and easy process once set up. If used unlike the conventional manner, maybe it could have alternate functions as joinery to attach or hold other materials without hardware for sleek workmanship.

Aluco bond panels – thin sheets of aluminum outside + insulation (mineral) inside; are easy to manipulate and thus are specially used around columns in airports or as base boards.

The fabrication technique of creating grooves by CNC in Aluminum panels so it bucks and bends is quite interesting as a folding (origami) approach to designing a product with limited moves.

Date visited : 05 Feb 2018

Purpose : Would it be possible to manufacture interior products using the same manufacturing techniques used in the building industry? Specifically in this case aluminium extrusions.

Person Contacted : Mr. Sunil Philip, Workshop Production Facility Manager

Facilities : Curtain Wall system, Trading + Assembly of profiles into doors and windows, Painting / powder coating / PVDF coating / CNC with die – Facade systems – to punch shapes in sheet metal, Water jet cutting, 3D printing, CNC routers, Lathe machines

Sahara Glass Factory

A visit to the Sahara Glass Factory introduced various methods of treating glass to achieve various textures and levels of transparencies.

Inference from visit:

The most interesting technique was the fused glass due to its capability of achieving surface texture manipulation up to 5-6 cms. Another interesting aspect about the material was its transformational capability in terms of aesthetics. It could work for modern interiors with minimal etching or sandblasting or be adorned with gold leaf inlay for more ornate preferences.

The main issue here was the fact that we couldn’t witness many applications of this material in furniture/ household accessories. It was being treated predominantly as a screening device.

Date visited : 12 Feb 2018

Purpose : Would it be possible to manufacture interior products using the same manufacturing techniques used in the glass industry?

Person Contacted : Ms. Leen Al Ali, Designer

Facilities : Variable depth sandblasting, Sand blasting with gold leaf inlay / paint, Fused glass (with a foam to give impressions) – cannot temper, Stained Glass, UV cured glue for glass

COSMOPLAST – Plastic Factory

Cosmoplast specializes in plastic products like Indoor – Outdoor Furniture, household goods, storage. Italian made Carbon steel molds work with commercial plastics like Polypropylene / HDPE / ABS / HIBS / PP / polystyrene. Hollow plastic products are filled with polyurethane to provide insulation.

A special grade of plastic – PP, when molded in a particular way acts like hinge, called the living hinge which has a life cycle of 200,000 runs before it wears down.

Inference from visit:

The whole process is fairly automated and requires comparatively less man power than industries like ceramics. The initial set up cost of a product is expensive as it contains – mold design and manufacture. But the long term returns from the mass manufacturing process is high due to low running input costs.

Date visited : 07 Feb 2018

Purpose : Would it be possible to manufacture interior products using the same manufacturing techniques used in the plastics industry?

Person Contacted : Mr. Narek Mikael Koroukian, Owner

Facilities : CNC Injection Molding, Blow Molding, Injection + Blow Molding, Lathe Machines, Milling Machines, Aluminum pipes and other accessories, Sparking – spark erosion, Thermoform, Rotational molding

RAK Ceramics

Ceramics have evolved over the years through extensive usage by various communities over the world. Experimental use of broken pottery with some glazing as flooring revealed Ceramic’s heat resistant, fire resistant & moisture resistant properties. It is a material made from natural materials, environmentally sustainable and can be reused and recycled in multiple ways. It is a low maintenance product and can be personalized by using finishes like metal/ glossy/ matte. It is a product whose production still relies heavily on man power along with machinery and thus introduces the element of mass customization into the product. No product is truly ever the “same” as it engages with the human touch.

Inference from visit:

Great material to work with in terms of a U.A.E made product. It is comparatively cheaper to make molds and effectively faster to execute the process of manufacturing. The only loophole is to understand how to incorporate a material that has a low threshold for structural strength into a furniture piece.

Date visited : 15 Feb 2018

Purpose : Would it be possible to manufacture interior products using the same manufacturing techniques used in the ceramics industry?

Person Contacted : Ms. Kenza Ayouby, Corporate Communications Executive

Facilities : CNC Injection Molding, Pressing, Baking, Glazing, Roto Molding, Traditional Slip Casting


A quick documentation was done by mapping the independent stores, chain stores, warehouses, dirham shops & used markets that currently cater to the Sharjah residents on Google maps. This was done to get an idea of the kinds of furniture currently available to the masses. A drawback of this phase was that – even though charting the information helped preview the current market supply, it was a really difficult and time-consuming process to understand which furniture types were preferred by the customers. For this particular reason, a mini survey within a circle of 100 – 200 U.A.E residents was conducted to help understand the kind of furniture they purchase for their homes.


Various people were contacted in my social circle and extended social circles through connections to compile a mini database of the taste of furniture that multinational U.A.E residents purchase or like to adorn their homes with. The varied demographic consisted of people living in villas to studio apartments and thus the change in income reflected their lifestyle choices. At this point, it became important to narrow the customer base predicting that the future product design would cater to average and above-income residents. Their stylistic choice was also varied depending on cultural influences and backgrounds, however a basic principle was that people would enrich their guest receiving quarters / living rooms more articulately than the rest of the dwelling. People were willing to spend more thought, time and money on that segment of the house in comparison to the others.


Based on the kinds of furniture styles in the survey, furniture types that were specific to the living quarters were shortlisted to further design and develop in coherence with the manufacturing techniques previously learned. It was an open ended process and resulted in various conceptual ideas ranging from Storage Shelves, laptop stands to seating situations.

These ideas were further explored in an additional set of sketches which yielded in a decision to explore the concept of a leaning stool (for long standing occupations or functions).

These ideas were further explored in an additional set of sketches which yielded in a decision to explore the concept of a leaning stool (for long standing occupations or functions).

After narrowing down the options to a furniture piece that is restricted to various seating postures, a visit to Ikea helped understand the current products available in the market catering to various ergonomic sitting positions. These ranged from office chairs, poufs, rocking chairs, stools, bar stools, rocking – leaning stools.

The findings of Ikea and one of the earlier conceptual sketches of a stool design with a spring eventually streamlined the direction towards an interactive – playful sitting situations for adults. A product that would redefine the passive act of sitting and engage the user. The spring effect was conceptually emulated in multiple ways – like an accordion or through the use of laminated plywood sheets with gaps to provide the cushioning.

With a theoretical prototype plaster model displaying the control of vertical and rotational compression, the next iteration was the 1:1 mock up to explore and test the theory of the two protruding shafts from the base and the seat.

Mock up Assembly:

Two circular MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) plates were cut out with diameters of 60 cm. These were connected to the spring at either ends by drilling holes and attaching them with zip ties. The seat and the base were further connected to smaller MDF circular plates that are housed within the spring to reduce visual heaviness of the product while serving the same function. These smaller MDF circular plates’ sole purpose was to maintain a minimum height for optimum leg support upon compression after seating.

Inference from Mock up:

  1. The spring needed to be stiffer so as to support the average weight of an adult in the U.A.E (70 kg) before the two MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) plates collided. There was less spring action for people below 80 kg.
  2. The rotational constrain was not addressed and was a hazard as people could fall over.
  3. The height needed to be reduced from the current 70 cm to 55 cm for ideal usage.

The following iteration of the 1:1 mock up fixed the rotational motion and compression issue through the incorporation of PVC (Poly vinyl Chloride) pipes of diameters 11cm and 16 cm. This move facilitated the constant control of linear motion as well as helped constrain the rotational movement to 30 degrees in all directions by the contact of the ends of the pipe with the smaller diameter to the inside of the pipe with the larger diameter.

Spring Manufacturer: Unique Precision Moulding Dies. Ind. L.L.C
Factory Location : Industrial Area 13 Sharjah
Person Contacted : Mr. Sharafudeen
Cost of 1 unit : 200 Dhs


Based on the conclusions of the physical 1:1 mock up, a visualization render was produced to better explain the aesthetic materiality of the final product.

The next step in this research would be to approach the relevant industries with the design and explore the feasibility of its actual manufacture process. This would entail bill of materials, cost analysis, lead time, logistics, etc.