For the military to use a piece of furniture, it has to meet special requirements. This is especially true in shipboard applications, which isn’t surprising when you think about it. After all, there are a lot of factors that distinguish at-sea military applications from land applications.
Keep reading for important intel on shipboard furniture design!
Rules of the Sea for Shipboard Furniture
So, what makes makes sheet metal design for marine applications different?
A ship will pitch and roll, sometimes violently.
Working and living quarters aboard a ship tend to be compact, with extra space at a premium.
Salt is a constant, and it’s highly corrosive.
Weight is an important consideration on any ship.
Sailors have more important things to do than maintain shoddy furniture.
1. Make it safe.
Naval furniture can only be made from approved material and has to meet specifications for combustibility and release of smoke and toxic fumes if it’s in a fire. Hopefully it never comes to that, but everyone on a Navy ship is prepared for that possibility. You should be, too.
You should also avoid leaving sharp corners and edges on your design. This will prevent damage and injury to occupants and objects during rough seas.
2. Keep the weight off.
On a ship, heavier furniture can affect stability and speed. Both are essential to an effective naval craft.
3. Give it some room.
In cramped shipboard spaces, it’s important to have compact furniture that makes the most of the room available. Multifunctional pieces often win out here.
4. Be low-maintenance.
High-maintenance furniture steals valuable time from sailors with a mission to fulfill. Every piece on board should be as easy as possible to care for.
Fortunately, metal is much more durable than wood. There’s no rotting and chipping to deal with. Not all metals are created equal, of course -- more on that in a second.
5. Stay strong.
Furniture on a naval vessel takes a beating. It has to be strong to withstand heavy use.
6. Choose the right material.
It takes the right stuff to make shipboard furniture. It has to meet the demands of stringent specifications. Speaking of which ...
The Best Material for the Mission
1. Strength & Durability
With the right treatment, steel and other metals can be highly resistant to corrosion from exposure to salt and other chemicals. It’s also stronger and less susceptible to impact damage, such as punctures.
There is a grade of stainless steel -- 316 stainless steel -- literally referred to as “marine grade” because of its high resistance to saline environments. There may be cheaper options, depending on how strong and durable you need your sheet metal to be.
2. Easy Maintenance
Metal presents few barriers to cleaning. Its smooth, impermeable surface makes disinfection easy. This is especially true with stainless steel and its great, mirror-like finish.
It also has advantages in pest control. It won’t absorb pest-control chemicals, and preventive cleaning is fast and simple.
This point seems counterintuitive. It’s possible to obtain furniture made from other materials for less. But the up-front cost is only half the equation. You have to look at the lifetime cost, too
Metal lasts longer than other materials because it’s stronger, more impact-resistant, and more corrosion-resistant. Over time, it’s a better bargain.
The Bottom Line: Great Design
Military furniture, including shipboard furniture, has to be well-designed to meet strict standards. These days, the most advanced metal fabricators are using a technique called design for manufacturing (DFM) to help meet that end.
The method helps fabricators avoid wasting 40% of their (and their customers’) time fixing production problems, instead meeting specifications at every stage of the manufacturing process.
Partnering with a metal fabricator that uses DFM and is up on the relevant ISO specifications is the best way to launch a successful shipboard furniture line.