In the Details
With an elegant silhouette that doesn't scream "DIY," the Zeta Aluminium lamp is a welcome addition to the realm of hardware-free, flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself housewares. Designed by the Florence, Italy-based ZPSTUDIO, the lamp uses a narrow template design to wring maximum utility out of a minimal amount of material—resulting in low cost and little environmental impact.
Zeta Aluminium is actually the second iteration of this project. The original Zeta, released in 2011, was created from sheets of laser-cut poplar. ZPSTUIO'S founders, Eva Parigi and Matteo Zetti, sold the prototype to another design company, but they have now taken back the patent to redevelop the concept into Zeta Aluminium. "We wanted to further extend the early idea to achieve a more advanced, tech-like version," Parigi says.
Zeta Aluminium shares the same principles and silhouette of its predecessor, but instead of wood it uses Dibond, an industrial aluminum composite made of two pre-painted sheets of 0.012-inch-thick aluminum that sandwich a polyethylene core. This is a big upgrade from poplar: Dibond is lighter weight and more durable, and it will not warp or bow the way a sheet of wood might. Plus, the polyethylene core adds an additional layer of friction to hold the pieces together.
Assembling the original poplar version of the Zeta lamp
Dibond is manufactured in the United States, and it's typically made in large quantities and dimensions for use as a high-tech facade for industrial buildings, but Parigi and Zetti were able to find a dealer in Tuscany who was willing to work on small-batch orders. Working with the dealer face-to-face, ZPSTUDIO could perform the technical tests required for Zeta to go from laser to lamp in as few steps as possible. "The very big challenge in this aluminum version was to have it perfectly solid and steady in one shot," says Parigi. "Every piece has to be cut by infinitesimal precision to allow both an easy assembling and a stiff snap-fit. We had to make a lot of cut tests to achieve this."
Designing a sturdy structure was no problem for Parigi and Zetti, both of whom graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Florence in 2003 before founding ZPSTUDIO. (Zetti now also works as a consultant for national engineering companies.) And for laser-cutting the pieces, they found the perfect partner in the manufacturing district of Valdarno, which caters to many high-fashion companies, including Prada, Gucci and Ferragamo. There, Parigi and Zetti worked with a company that typically laser-cuts the soles of shoes, adapting that process for the sheets of Zeta Aluminium.
An early sketch of Zeta, and a laser-cut sheet ready to be assembled
Compliance with strict EU standards for electrical devices, however, posed a challenge for the studio. "We achieved this by taking the wire connector out of the body of the lamps, and by calculating the minimum distance between the three wings that shade the lightbulb," Zetti says. EU standards require that electrical equipment must provide a level of protection against electric shock, relying upon a combination of insulation and the protective earthing conductor contained within the electricity supply. With Dibond's inherent double insulation, as well as the insulated cord, Zeta Aluminium satisfies that requirement and provides the perfect grounding core and grip to set the lamp on any horizontal surface.
With its small-scale production and collaboration with local manufacturers, Zeta Aluminium is a fitting addition to the studio's Tools collection, a series of products made in Italy that work with semi-finished materials from industrial production.