Better Connectors: The Future of Flatpack Furniture
Meghan Brown posted on February 08, 2016 |

Modular furniture that requires some assembly is a popular market.  It is also a growing market, with consumers wanting customizable pieces that are both strong and easy to assemble.

Standard cam lock nut and cam screw fastener. (Photo courtesy core77.com.)

Standard cam lock nut and cam screw fastener. 

(Photo courtesy core77.com.)

One of the biggest downsides to this type of furniture is the screw and cam lock fasteners.  Consumers and furniture OEMs share this concern – that the furniture product is not as sturdy or as durable as it could be due to poor quality joint fasteners.

Fastener Failure

IKEA furniture is often a textbook case for the failure of joint connectors in modular furniture, both during assembly and over the lifetime of the product.

The selling point is presented as furniture that is low cost, easy to assemble and that can be disassembled and reassembled multiple times in order to move to another location.

The reality is that the poor quality fasteners often impede original assembly or disassembly, and will not remain tight over the course of the product’s lifecycle. 

Common failures include:

●     Fastener components that do not fit into the drill holes or do not align.

●     Poor threading on nuts and screws.

●     Die casting flashing that remains on sides or edges.

●     Fasteners will not tighten or lock and require frequent re-tightening, leaving loose joints and joints that loosen progressively over time and use.

●     Damage to joints, drill holes and fasteners when attempting to disassemble and reassemble.

 “My son has an IKEA bunk bed, and a seven-year-old is like a monkey; I am constantly tightening things, or adding screws, to keep that thing from falling apart,” said Josh Glaser, Vice President of Glaser and Associates, a manufacturer and distributer of fastening solutions.

The quality issue often stems from IKEA and similar flat-pack furniture manufacturers seeking to reduce the shipping weight, and to offer the lowest cost.  However, these weight and cost savings often come at the expense of quality and durability.

The Solution: TorpedoCSIS Patented Connection Systems

For instances where the furniture material is good quality, getting stronger joints and easier assembly is as simple as changing the type of fastener.

Enter the TorpedoCSIS (Countersunk Sliding Interlocking System) connector, distributed by Glaser & Associates.  Designed for use with existing designs of IKEA and other modular furniture, the TorpedoCSIS connectors can replace existing common connector systems in flat-pack and modular furniture.

Torpedo CSIS connector. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)
Torpedo CSIS connector. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

Each connector series is designed to allow manufacturers to maintain their current flat-pack techniques.

TorpedoCSIS connectors were created with engineers, architects, designers and end-users in mind.  They aim to challenge the conventional thinking of the furniture design and assembly industries.

TorpedoCSIS connectors are not just for the IKEA-style MDF and laminate “build-your-own” products, but are designed for applications in bespoke solid wood construction such as cabinetry, post and railing, shelves and stairs, as well as honeycomb materials, metal and plastic. 

“As long as you have an anchoring product to wood or another paneling product, it will be able to do that connection,” stated Glaser.

Honeycomb, MDF, solid wood and laminate connected using Torpedo CSIS connectors.  (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)
Honeycomb, MDF, solid wood and laminate connected using Torpedo CSIS connectors. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

How Do They Work?

All TorpedoCSIS connectors use simple one-step shaft and clamp technology. This patented technology pulls shaft-connected materials together by more than 4mm in a tight clamp fit, but can still be hand tightened easily with only a standard hex key tool.

All of the connectors are made from standard zinc plated, low carbon steel, and the same patented design is used throughout the interlocking components of shaft bolt, countersunk hole and a grub screw. 

Examples of Torpedo CSIS grub screws, shaft bolts and housing. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)
Examples of Torpedo CSIS grub screws, shaft bolts and housing. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

The name Countersunk Sliding Interlocking System also describes the mechanics of how the connectors work.

Unlike other styles of connector, the Torpedo CSIS has two opposing countersunk areas in the shaft bolt.

The shafting process starts with the grub screw nipple first landing on the outer periphery of one of the countersunk areas.

As the grub screw is tightened, the nipple is driven down the slope and into the partition that joins the two countersinks. This movement pulls or pushes the connected materials.

(Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)
(Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

Once the nipple lands in the partition, it holds the connector in place.  The lock is created at the end of the assembly process, when the pulling force on the shaft bolt partition pulls at the nipple on the grub screw. 

This movement slightly dislodges the grub screw from its center in the housing, causing the grub screw threads to embed deeper on one side of the housing than the other.  This locks the whole connector into place, and ensures it will stay locked.

This interaction between the countersunk areas, grub screw and housing is essential to the effectiveness of the Torpedo CSIS connector.

The connector offers high accuracy due to the dual countersunk areas.  Each full rotation of the grub screw tightens the connection by 1mm, so with two opposing countersunk areas, the level can be adjusted by 0.5mm. 

Josh Glaser describes the process as, “a very simple, one step process.  For example, with a post and rail, there are three holes in the joint. One hole on the post is for an insert nut, and the shaft bolt threads into the internally threaded insert nut. Then there are two holes on the rail, one for the housing and one for shaft bolt to enter. Once those are lined up, the shaft bolt goes in through the housing, you can see the countersunk hole, you drop the grub screw in, and tighten it up.”


Benefits of TorpedoCSIS over IKEA Fasteners

There are several benefits to the TorpedoCSIS connector system over traditional connectors.

Possibly the strongest benefit comes from the ability to easily disassemble furniture joined with TorpedoCSIS connectors with no damage to the furniture materials or the connector itself.  The furniture can also be reassembled with the same ease and tightness of joints.

For manufacturers, this means a higher quality product.  But the TorpedoCSIS connector is also strong enough for use in high quality hardwood and solid-wood furniture such as dining tables, beds, cabinetry and stairs.  These products are not typically shipped as a flat-pack, but with the TorpedoCSIS system they could be assembled by the end user, changing the way furniture is delivered in the future.

Lastly, the TorpedoCSIS products are fully scalable and customizable.  “If someone wants to use our concept in their design, we are willing to work with them on a solution. For example, we’ve had some interest from the architecture and construction industries for applications in clean finishing on exposed roof trusses, as well as non-traditional cross laminated timber structural connections. Obviously furniture, paneling and stairs are the immediate applicable industries, but the opportunities are endless with our design,” said Glaser.

A Connector for Every Material

Regardless of the furniture material, intended use or joint type, there is a suitable TorpedoCSIS connector for any product.

Lining and partitioning connector for honeycomb panels. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

Lining and partitioning connector for honeycomb panels. (Image courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

The H Series for honeycomb panels includes:

●     Frameless Single Layer/Dual Layer Connector for center based joining of honeycomb panels with layers 6mm or greater.

●     Lining and Partitioning Connector for connecting honeycomb partitioning panels.

●    Workshop Under-Bench Drop-In Connector for use on the underside of honeycomb boards functioning as a work surface.

 

Bracing solid wood connector. (Photo courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

Bracing solid wood connector. (Photo courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

The S Series for solid wood includes:

●     Beam Connector for connection of solid wood post to beams.  Accommodates posts as large as 50mm x 60mm and beams as large as 20mm.

●     Invisible Connector designed for heavily used furniture and is hidden from view.

●     Bracing Connector, a permanent two piece connector for indoor or outdoor furniture.

●     Adjustable Bracing Connector, the adjustable version of the Bracing Connector.

●     Newel Connector for anchoring newel posts to floor beams.


Post and rail connector. (Photo courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

Post and rail connector. (Photo courtesy of Glaser & Associates.)

The R Series for newel post and railing includes:

●     Rail Connector for staircase assembly and joining handrails to fittings and newel posts as well as other general woodworking applications.

●     Rail and Post Connector, a four piece connector designed specifically for solid wood furniture.

TorpedoCSIS Pty. Ltd. is a privately owned Australian company that has been pioneering furniture and panel connectors since 2010.  As the exclusive North American supplier and distributor for TorpedoCSIS, Glaser & Associates provides solutions for use in modular furniture assembly.

For more information on the benefits of Torpedo CSIS connectors, download the ebook Torpedo CSIS Connectors vs. IKEA Style Fittings available from Glaser & Associates.  

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Glaser and Associates has sponsored this post. It has no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. –Meghan Brown

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