The SOFT Rockers are made from flat MDF panels which have undergone an advanced digital curving process based on the zipshape process that was originally developed in Switzerland by Christoph Schindler. A lightweight Kuka robotic arm was used to remove portions of the structurally unsound wood to form an inside surface resembling a row of teeth. There’s nothing quite like an old rocking chair for finding your center and chilling out. Originally thought to have been developed as garden furniture, the rocker has now come full circle with the development of the SOFT Rocker by Professor Sheila Kennedy and architecture students from MIT.
Installed at the Institute’s Killian Court for the Festival of Art+Science+Technology (FAST), the teardrop-shaped outdoor rocking lounge chairs have solar panels over the top to provide power for up to three USB devices, and some after-dark lighting to allow the party to go on after the sun goes down. Two such panels were then interlocked and glued together to form a curved structure, and then vacuum-sealed in plastic bags. When the glue had dried, they were removed from the bags, veneer applied to both sides and then placed back in the bags. While the robot arm probably could have taken care of the intricate pattern work too, this was done using a laser cutter or 3-axis CNC router. The wooden structure was then varnished to afford it some protection from the elements, although longer term installations will probably require something a bit more robust. Gen II flexible solar panels from Global Solar were installed over the surface of the roof to feed a 12 amp-hour battery, which in turn provides power to devices such as laptops, smartphones and even chilled drinks dispensers connected via USB.