Devoto Research & Development: the desk made of wood, polystyrene and gelcoat

Devoto Research & Development: the desk made of wood, polystyrene and gelcoat

Devoto Design Research & Development: today we’ll talk about a project secret that is the result of our analysis, experimentation, and curiosity that all led to the construction of a big-sized item that is extremely mouldable, highly resistant, and – above all – easily moveable and economic: the reception desk in wood, polystyrene, and gelcoat.


In the last years, 3D solid modeling and digital fabrication have paid a large contribution to the design and construction of items with unusual shapes, highly customizable, and more and more imposing.

Devoto Research and Development

Is it possible, then, to create a big, complex surface of variable sections with unusual materials?

Always paying attention to creativity, design, and functionality, the Devoto team has developed some feasibility studies to find new materials that could be light, mouldable, and economic for the construction of resistant and durable furniture.

Here we’ll tell you how one of these Devoto Research & Development feasibility studies has turned into an original item that has sparked interest and achieved considerable success..

Our goal was that of experimenting the possibility of producing items with a strong architectural impact, both for their dimensions and the fact that they are the result of particular construction processes that we could define “contaminated” or “taken to their extremes” by using materials like polystyrene that can be moulded into an organic shape through the use of high-value application technology. 

Devoto Research and Development

The creative use of high-density polystyrene and gelcoat

First of all, it is necessary to say that this material was already on the market. To make it original is the creative use we made of it. High-density polystyrene can be easily cut into the desired shape both with CNC machines and traditional tools – but even manually. An external gelcoat finish was then applied to the surface.

Gelcoat (a definition): material used to provide a high-quality finish on the visible surface of a fibre-reinforced composite. The most common gelcoats are thermosetting polymers based on epoxy or unsaturated polyester resin chemistry. Gelcoats are modified resins which are applied to moulds in the liquid state. They are cured to form crosslinked polymers and are subsequently backed with thermoset polymer matrix composites which are often mixtures of polyester resin and fiberglas, or epoxy resin which is most commonly used with carbon fibre for higher specific strength. (source: Wikipedia)


Devoto Research and Development

Devoto Research & Development: the case study of the reception desk

Devoto built a big-sized desk with a continuous surface and variable section. To build it we first obtained a core with cross-fiber laminated fir wood.  This core has a double function:

  • it grants structural stability
  • it is the base for the application of the high-density polystyrene coating.

The desk top is made of Corian®, that can match the same colour and the same requisites of the external finish made of gelcoat. 

Why has this project sparked interest in the insiders?

This experimental use of the material raised interest and curiosity in architects and insiders. The project of this desk has been particularly appreciated by the hospitality world and by the worshippers of projects with a strong architectural impact.

The project reveals the great capability of this company in terms of  manufacturing skills and executive experimentation, as well as its stubborness, curiosity and will to apply complex and contaminated new technologies to the production of wood items. 

Devoto Research and Development

Devoto Research and Development: all the design steps

Here is how our team built the reception desk:

1. Feasibility study and prototype

During this first step the team developed:

  • Technical and economic feasibility study 
  • Analysis of solutions and materials to evaluate the technical and executive consistency of the project
  • Realization of realistic simulations

The team also analyzed the construction process, the materials, the surface finishes, and – not least – the delivery logistics.

During this step the Devoto team also prepared the necessary samples to verify the construction process. 

2. Executive study and digital fabrication

During the second step, Devoto developed a 3D model optimized for the use of solid modeling CAD-CAM software for the CNC cut. The reception desk was divided into three parts for logistics and delivery reasons.

Each of the three pieces had its specific CAD-CAM program for the elments that compose the coating. 

3. CNC production and assembly

The 5-axis CNC machine and the system for the codification of the pieces – programmed during the executive study – led to the production of the construction elements to be assembled manually.

Every single piece, beside being modeled in its three dimensions, was conceived and prepared with suitable structural bands integrated into the high-density polystyrene element to grant a perfect mechnanical performance during the assembly step.

After the manual assembly we:

  • fixed the surfaces on the contact points
  • verified the areas of tolerance necessary for the following application of the structural coating
  • applied the Gelcoat.

4. Final finish

During this final step, the team took care of the structural stiffening of the high-density styrofoam. This included:

  • Application of plaster
  • Resination with gelcoat
  • Final sanding to reach the desired matt finish requested by the project design and obtained through a mechanical water polishing

Eventually, the Devoto team sanded portions of the surfaces according to the different levels of brightness, from the matt ones to the mirror-polished ones.

5. Delivery

Once the manufacturing process was completed, we simulated the final delivery by assembling the three portions of the reception desk and obtaining one big volume; thanks to a specific joint we used, no surface junctures are visible.

After the assembly, we integrated the requested technology such as the lighting system.

Devoto Design Research & Development: follow us to find out more about our projects! 

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