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Since it was founded in 1969, CATAS has become Italy's biggest laboratory for testing furniture and wood-based products. Every year, it carries out more than 20,000 individual tests, placing chairs, and their manufacturers, under intense pressure to excel in standards of strength, durability and safety.

On first impression, the laboratory testing room of CATAS' Friuli headquarters is a tad bizaare. A long line of robotic arms complete with distinctly posterior-shaped extensions depress chairs with the repetitive act of 'sitting', while at the other end, strange contraptions tug, tweak and squeeze every part of their victim's constitution.

For the chairs, this is a necessary procedure if they want to enjoy the coveted CATAS seal of approval.

With the tests devised by expert test engineers, and using the latest equipment in line with national and international standards (including ISO and EN), products that pass have a very special stamp indeed.

There isn't a single component in each product that's left to chance.

The range of assessments includes: physical-mechanical tests on raw materials and fittings, to verify the safety of upholstery foams, adhesives and fasteners; chemical analyses to identify the composition of materials and level of, if any, harmful emissions; surface tests to assess the behaviour of the parts, including submission to impact, thermal shock, abrasions, corrosion and stains; fire reaction tests and, fi nally, mechanical tests on finished products (cue the mechanical bottoms) which simulate and exaggerate stimuli to evaluate the overall strength and safety of each product.

As part of this year's Promosedia programme of events, an awards ceremony (hats off to the local prosciutto San Daniele, the evening's real winner) celebrated the most outstanding chairs tested during the previous 12 months.

Among the fortunate four were the elegant shell-shaped 'Oscar-Bon' polymer armchair by Philippe Starck for Driade and a mouldable resin armchair/chaise longue by Stefano Giovannoni for Modular.

Ply time Timber campaign wood. for good challenged product-design students at Middlesex University, plus a number of well-known designers, to create new prototypes for timber chairs. The designs, which were on show at 100% Design in September, have already been attracting interest from manufacturers.

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