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Zips may end flat-pack headaches

An inventor in Taiwan has invented a method of assembling furniture by zipping the components together.

Flat-pack furniture could soon be assembled simply by pulling a zip, the New Scientist reports.

A conventional zip works best by having two halves bending slightly away from each other as they are drawn together.

But Shih-Chang Wang's zip has a slider that pushes the teeth on one side into gaps on the other like jigsaw pieces.

This innovation means it could be used to join together wood and plastic in cupboards and kitchen units with a single pull and so save endless hours of frustration, the magazine reported.

College launches flat-pack fight back

A college has launched a do-it-yourself course which aims to take the frustration out of flat-pack furniture.

The three-hour course will guide students through Ikea instructions and give some method to MFI madness.

DIYers will be shown the finer points of joining bracket A to shelf B and will even be able to use the expert advice of teacher John Tilley on their own pieces of furniture.

The free course is one of Northampton College's Bite Size range, one of a range of ideas aimed at getting adults back into education by demonstrating that learning can be fun.

Helene Parker, the college's marketing manager, said she came up with the "quirky course" idea after being told about Reverse Parking for Women which proved popular at another college.

She said: "We wanted something a bit quirky, a bit weird and wonderful that people won't perceive as learning."

The course, which is aimed at both men and women, runs on January 22 and 24 and aims to help the "dominant male" who abandons instructions in favour of a freehand approach or those who feel confused by poorly written or illustrated instructions.

It is hoped the Bite Size courses will attract people who have abandoned education believing they don't have the time to commit to a lengthy course or those who are not seeking a formal qualification.

Other lessons on offer in the Bite Size programme include getting to grips with digital photography, stress management and meditation.

 Flat Pack-V-Rigid?

Much is made of the virtues of so called rigid kitchens. Mostly by those who supply nothing else. The simple truth of the matter is that unless you are paying top dollar for the best that the Germans have to offer, you are more than likely going to receive a flat pack kitchen that is merely pre-assembled rather than a truly rigid kitchen.

Another, perhaps more worrying , reason why some manufacturers produce rigid units is the fact that the board the individual cabinets is constructed from is of a very low density. All modern kitchen unit carcasses are made from wood particle board faced with melamine (melamine faced chipboard or "m.f.c".). The problem is that, as with most things, there are varying degrees of quality which are not always apparent to the untrained eye. After all one piece of mfc looks pretty much like any other piece.
The difference becomes apparent when you try to assemble the units when using modern screw in dowel & cam fixing (the best quality units use a combination of screw in dowels and timber dowels for added load bearing ability). Low density mfc just isn't strong enough to give a secure fixing so the only way you can get a cabinet to stay together long enough for you to screw it to the wall is by using glue in timber dowels. Hence the low budget rigid kitchen. To illustrate the point, take a large woodscrew and a piece of Weetabix, drive the screw into the Weetabix and pull. How hard do you think you'll have to pull to get the screw out?

All things considered, a good quality "supplied un-assembled" unit ( flat pack), professionally installed , will outlast any of the affordable rigid kitchens. There are various other benefits too. Not least being the fact that if you find a particular piece damaged on delivery, or more usually, when you're about to fit it, a flat pack part is usually available by post or overnight carrier from the manufacturer. This is not the case with a rigid cabinet, especially if the manufacturer happens to be somewhere near Munich.



Order #: F176_2000XX; US$550.00
Published by Key Note, November 2002; 85 pages; 31 exhibits

FlagFThe UK fitted kitchens market was valued at 3.2bn at manufacturers' selling prices (msp) in 2001. A fitted kitchen consists of three key elements, which are often supplied as a complete package kitchen appliances, kitchen furniture (such as cupboards and drawers), and sinks and worktops. Kitchen appliances can be segmented into three broad sectors in accordance with their function: cooking, cooling and refrigeration, and laundry and dishwashing. In 2001, kitchen appliances accounted for the largest share of the fitted kitchens market by value, followed by kitchen furniture, then sinks and worktops.

The kitchen furniture sector is segmented into flat-packed and rigid furniture. Flat-packed predominates in both value and volume terms, although volume accounts for a larger share owing to the lower unit value of flat-packed furniture.

The performance of the kitchen furniture market is dependent on the economy, in addition to the level of house moving and housebuilding. In difficult economic periods, the purchase of a new kitchen is more likely to be deferred in favour of essential household items. House moving prompts higher levels of kitchen refurbishment. Furthermore, the rise of house prices has meant that more consumers are willing to release equity in their properties to invest in refurbishment and improvement projects. The wide range of home improvement television programmes has also stimulated this market by placing a greater emphasis on the overall design of the kitchen and encouraging consumers to update furniture with a more fashionable style.

The main channels of distribution for kitchen furniture are the furniture multiples (such as MFI and IKEA), followed by the kitchen specialists, which tend to focus on more upmarket products incorporating a high level of design. MFI is the market leader by volume and is vertically integrated as both a manufacturer and retailer, offering both flat-packed and rigid furniture. Other channels include DIY stores, builders' merchants and direct sales. The level of imported products in the market remains low, at less than 4%.

Modest growth is forecast for the fitted kitchens market between 2002 and 2006, against a background of favourable economic growth and a positive housing market.