A new piece of software promises to give Ikea a run for its money by designing flat-packed furniture that can be assembled without the need for tools, screws, nails, or glue. By slotting the pieces together in a specific order, they securely lock together eliminating the risk of them falling apart.
The software was created by a team of researchers at Nanyang Technological University and works by determining how the various parts interlock with those they touch, as well as the rest of the furniture’s pieces at the same time. So while the top of a desk might not physically touch one of the legs, the in-between pieces help ensure the whole thing stays together. The assembly process also hinges on a ‘key’ piece that works kind of like a cornerstone to keep everything together. As long as it’s secure, the furniture won’t fall apart, despite the lack of nails or screws:
In this paper, we present a computational solution to support the design of a network of interlocking joints that form a globally-interlocking furniture assembly. The key idea is to break the furniture complex into an overlapping set of small groups, where the parts in each group are immobilized by a local key, and adjacent groups are further locked with dependencies. The dependency among the groups saves the effort of exploring the immobilization of every subset of parts in the assembly, thus allowing the intensive interlocking computation to be localized within each small group. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our technique on many globally-interlocking furniture assemblies of various shapes and complexity.
The paper explaining exactly how the software works is set to be released at the upcoming Siggraph 2015 conference in Los Angeles, but the video goes a long way to illustrating why the results are so exciting. How often have you had an important screw or dowel go missing while you were assembling furniture? With these designs, as long as the major pieces are accounted for, your bed isn’t going to collapse.