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Illustrative project: dynamic chair

ZHAW develops dynamic office chair for a healthier approach to work

People who work sitting down are more prone to back pain. To address this, an office chair developed at the ZHAW uses a movable seat which reduces the strains placed on the back, thus diminishing the risk of back pain. The prototype version will go into production shortly.

One reason that remaining seated for a long time can lead to back pain is that it places static strain on the back’s muscle and bone structures. Researchers at the ZHAW School of Engineering have responded to this problem by developing an office chair which makes the sitting process dynamic. Because the seat is movable, the hips are kept mobile while the head and shoulders remain static. This in turn moves the back, thus preventing the dorsal muscles from becoming cramped and the supply of essential nutrients to the intervertebral discs being diminished.

«The results indicate that movement while seated can substantially reduce strain to the back.»

Dr. Daniel Baumgartner, Deputy  Project Manager, Institute of Mechanical Systems (IMES)

Movement reduces back strain

This interdisciplinary project is being managed by the ZHAW’s Institute of Mechanical Systems and is receiving funding from the Swiss Confederation’s Innosuisse (former CTI). In order to analyse the natural movement of the back, the ZHAW engineers worked with colleagues from the Institute of Physiotherapy at the ZHAW School of Health Professions. Thanks to three-dimensional tests carried out at the specially equipped movement laboratory, it was possible to measure the strains which dynamic sitting places on the back.

“The results indicate that movement while seated can substantially reduce strain to the back,” as Daniel Baumgartner, the project’s deputy manager, explains. “Based on that insight we analysed a number of existing dynamic sitting concepts before ultimately developing one of our own, based on natural human movement.” By applying that approach, the new office chair is able to move the spine in the same way as it moves when walking naturally.

Mass production thanks to crowd funding

So far, the new Swiss-designed office chair has been tested by a considerable number of ZHAW employees. Now it is ready to undergo a final field test with a large insurance company. If the results reported by that user group are also positive, the dynamic office chair will be mass produced for the office furniture market. To prepare for this next step, Daniel Baumgartner has already established a new spin-off company, Rotavis. The inventor’s plan is to use crowd funding to meet the substantial production costs involved. By providing Rotavis with crowd funding support, those interested in this unique office chair can secure themselves a place at the front of the queue when the product goes to market.

At a glance

Project website:

Participating institutes and centres:

Project partner:

Financing: Innosuisse (former CTI)

Project status: completed