The FIDU process, which was designed in the CAAD department at ETH Zürich, allows two-dimensional metal sheets that have been welded together at the edges to be inflated into three-dimensional hollow volumes. The ultralight Plopp stool is now being serially produced by the company Zieta Prozessdesign in Wrocław and Zurich.
In 2003, as a PhD student at the ETH Zürich, the Polish architect Oskar Zieta (b. 1975) began to explore new production technologies in architectural practice. His experiments with digital tools and computer-aided design led to the invention of a new production method. The so-called FIDU process—free inner pressure deformation—turns thin metal sheets into hollow volumes in a seamless digital chain. Two silhouettes cut out with CNC-controlled laser beams are welded together at the edges by a robot into a waterproof volume. The cavity formed between them can then be inflated under pressure with a liquid or air. The metal bulges outward and forms a stable hollow body. This lightweight construction method allows for customized mass production at a low cost using a common manufacturing process. The first application clearly showed the potential of the FIDU technology. The Plopp stool held up under 2.5 tons of weight in the testing hall at the ETH. The formally striking stool betrays a further characteristic of FIDU: in contrast to conventional CNC-manufactured products, Plopp looks like a handmade original and has a sculptural quality about it. Available in a choice of vibrant colors, it recalls the inflatable furniture of the seventies yet is as tough and durable as steel. (Renate Menzi)