An Australian scientist has found a way to turn ordinary pine dining tables into an idealised version of a real dining table.
The result is a table that can hold the maximum amount of food.
It can also be folded and used as a dining table for large groups of people.
Dr Chris Alexander and his team at the University of New South Wales found the idea is not so different from how people might fold a traditional dining table but rather the way they fold it is different.
They are also able to use it as a simple table for making dinner.
‘This is the next generation of table,’ says Dr Alexander, whose team has been working on the new design for more than two years.
‘The technology is there to make it very easy to fold a table, fold it to the right size, fold a bit to the left, fold in the centre of the table and then fold back.’
In fact, the researchers say their new folding table is the most complex and efficient way of folding a traditional table.
For the new folding technique, the scientists used a thin layer of plastic material on top of the base of the pine tree.
This material has a very fine surface that can be manipulated by bending it, rather than by snapping it.
‘We were able to create the surface that the polymer surface could be bent to the same shape that the plastic surface is bent to,’ Dr Alexander explains.
The new plastic surface then is used to shape the foldable plastic.
The researchers also found the process was very quick.
‘It took only a few seconds to fold the surface,’ Dr Andrew MacGregor, a structural engineer at the university who has been involved in the work, tells ABC News.
The process is similar to the process used in the manufacturing of paper plates, which the team describes as ‘cutting and folding’ using a machine to shape a small surface.
‘There’s a lot of advantages to this approach,’ says Professor Andrew Bannister from the University.
‘First of all, you get a much more compact structure that can fold up quite easily.’
The researchers have found they can make this process as fast as three seconds, which is faster than conventional folding techniques.
The plastic surface was then placed on top the tree, where it could be folded up into the desired shape.
‘So the surface is very smooth, the material is very thin, the process is relatively simple, and the amount of material that can fit into the area is quite large,’ Professor Bannisters said.
This allows for the table to be used in a number of ways.
One example is for people to fold it in different positions, which they can then rearrange with a simple flick of a switch.
Another use of this new technique is for food packaging, where the surface can be folded in a more natural way.
‘One of the interesting aspects of this is that it allows you to create a foldable dining table that folds up into a regular dining table,’ Dr Alexanders explains.
‘You can fold it down, fold over, fold up and over, and you can fold down and fold over again.’
The scientists say their next step is to see if the new table can be used as an alternative to conventional tableware for smaller groups.
‘To be honest, it’s not a lot different from a normal table in terms of how it looks and how you fold it up,’ Dr Bannows says.
‘But there’s some very important aspects that are different.’
They will be looking at how much they can fold the table before they begin to design their next design.
The design will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Science Advances.