Cardboard engineering

If you’ve visited us at our Stansted site, you may have noticed some rather unusual chairs made out of cardboard in the reception area. These chairs have an interesting story behind them and are an example of ambitious cardboard engineering. You see not so long ago they were part of a life-size replica of a Lexus IS saloon car made (almost) entirely out of cardboard – and the really amazing part is the car was drivable.

A team of 5 professional designers and modellers were commissioned by Lexus from UK-based companies: LaserCut Works and Scales and Models, supported by DS Smith, to carefully craft the cardboard car. The idea was to showcase the Lexus reputation, with its roots firmly in Japanese culture, for hand craftsmanship, and to highlight their design philosophy to be ‘technologically advanced yet humanised, to create striking design but still artistic yet unpretentious’ (Simon Humphries, Lexus Group Manager, Global Design Management Division).

The inspiration for the cardboard sculpture came from a dexterity test called the Takumi challenge that workers on the Lexus production line have to perform before they can accomplish ‘Takumi’ status. The challenge is to fold an origami cat with their non-dominant hand, which is no easy task!

The car was built around a steel and aluminium frame, with an electric motor to make it drivable (admittedly it didn’t quite go as fast as an actual Lexus, but it’s still pretty amazing!) and it featured functioning doors and headlights and a fully fitted interior – including chairs (of course), dashboard, steering wheel, gear stick and even cup holders.

The team constructed the car from a digital 3D model of the IS. The design was digitally rendered as 10mm-thick ‘slices’ – a bit like a CAD design for 3D printing – the data was then fed into a precision laser cutter which cut each slice of the car out of corrugated cardboard. In total there were a whopping 1,700 laser cut sheets of cardboard, each one was given its own sequential reference number and was assembled by hand using water based wood glue (if you’ve ever put together flat-pack furniture you’ll understand the enormity of this!). The build took 3 months to complete and was unveiled at the 2015 Grand Designs Live event.

Carboard engineering

And how did we get the chairs you might ask, well our lovely friends at LaserCut Works gave them to us, that’s how! And they take pride of place in our innovation centre down at Stansted because to us the cardboard car sums up innovation, it is the epitome of the Lexus design philosophy and a fine example of thinking outside the box.

For more examples of innovative cardboard engineering visit our Pinterest board

If you would like to visit us at our Stansted site and find out what’s going on at ProCo SPARK give us a call on 01279 757 333


You might even get to try out one of the chairs!