Skip to main content

EGR 496 - Engineering Capstone: Ergonomic Chair

Project: Ergonomic Chair

DesignTech, the largest design and manufacturing firm in the U.S. has been hired to design an ergonomic office chair by IKEA, the largest furniture retailer in the world. The background and details are listed below. You, as a DesignTech team are requested to come up with an office chair design ready for manufacturing. The chair has to be used by individuals with weight 250 lbs, and height 6’ 6” in 8 hour per day in an office environment. It is expected that the person using the chair is working on the computer and hence expect to have the required ergonomic chair design features built in. You need to provide design details ready for manufacturing including features (ergonomic and eco features), specification, state of art cushions, material section, cost and manufacturing process and strategies.

Chair Ergonomics (from course outline)

The office chair is the most frequently used piece of office equipment. Experts have identified several features characteristic of well-designed ergonomic office chairs. With increasing numbers of computer users in the workforce, the computer office chair has received great attention. It is presently estimated that 45 million American workers spend some time each day using a computer and keyboard. Approximately 30 million workers use the office chair, computer, keyboard, and pointing devices as their primary work equipment each day, all day, and up to 8 hours per day or more. Computer use has been linked to several types of injuries known as “Upper Extremity Repetitive Stress Injuries” (UE-RSI's), “Cumulative Trauma Disorders” (CTDs), or “Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders” (WRMSDs). RSIs, CTDs, and WRMSDs are associated with the upper extremities (UE) or arms, forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers as well as the neck, back and lower extremities (LE) or legs. Common CTDs associated with computer input devices include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), Tendonitis, and Tenosynovitis effecting the hands, wrists, and forearms as well as Neck Tension Syndrome, Low Back Pain (LBP), and LE pain. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that the incidence of such disorders has increased 770% between 1981 and 1991 (BNA, 1995). Several studies have clearly shown a definitive link between CTDs and computer use (NIOSH, 1997). Ergonomics is the premier science which concerns itself with humans at work and the many aspects of the “Human Computer Interface” (HCI). Studies clearly demonstrate a scientific basis for ergonomic design of office chairs.

Ergonomic Issues (from course outline)

Most office chairs today offer a few necessary ergonomic features that are a must. Others offer bells and whistles that might not be necessary for you to spend money on. We recommend that you take the time to define the ergonomic features you feel are right for you and purchase your next office chair accordingly. Additionally, saving money on ergonomic features you don't need allows you to allocate funds to other areas!

Tension Adjustment: Increase or decrease chair tension to allow your body to rock comfortably without heavy pushing. This feature helps to reduce muscle fatigue.

Chair Tilt Lock: This feature allows users the ability to lock their seat to accommodate individual position preferences. There are two types of chair tilt lock. These are single and infinite. Infinite allows you to lock the chair at any angle you choose.

Seat Height: This feature has become a standard on most office chairs. As simple as it sounds, it really is an important ergonomic attribute to add to your office chair. Adjusting the seat height of a chair to meet your needs will take pressure off your thighs, which will subsequently ease blood flow.

Arm Height: This is another common feature that should not be over looked. This valuable feature allows operators to reduce the muscular effort in the neck and shoulders, therefore minimizing the risk of pain.

Contoured Seat Cushions: Contoured cushions support the body effectively. They allow users to sit for longer periods comfortably, thus increasing productivity.

Width Adjustable Arms: This feature allows outward movement of armrests to match shoulder breadth. This ensures that armrests properly support your forearms, thus reducing muscular effort in the neck and shoulders.

Synchro Tilt Movement: Allows the backrest to reline at a faster rate than the seat which increases the angle between your torso and thighs. This ergo features enhances comfort and encourages dynamic body movement.

Waterfall Seat Edge: Reduces pressure at the back of the knee and improves blood flow. These are just a few of the more common ergonomic chair features. Overall, it is important to understand the individual benefits of having each. In today's market, chairs can be seen with features from back adjustment to solar powered toaster ovens.

Retractable settings: You may incorporate settings that the chair can automatically save and retract for different persons. When an individual uses the chair, they can program their specific setting and the chair would automatically readjust. (Similar to a car seat feature.)


Smart Search is a excellent place to begin brainstorming since it searches for your terms in the full text of most e-journals and e-books as well as the Library Catalog.

Smart Search: chair furniture manufacturing ergonomics (400+ results)

Smart Search - Advanced Search: "human engineering" AND (chairs OR furniture)

Alternative search terms:  "furniture design" OR "furniture industry" OR "office equipment industry" / "engineering design"

More: innovations / "health aspects" / forecasts / trends / regulations

New favorite:  "anthropometric measurement" OR anthropometry

Focus on Discipline Resources

Try your searches in the specialized databases (business, engineering, legal, etc.)  listed on the Find Articles tab of this guide.  This will help you focus your search based on the type of literature you want to explore.

EBSCO - Academic Search Premier & Business Source Premier: "engineering design" AND ergonomics (limited to subject field) (70 results)

EBSCO - Academic Search Premier & Business Source Premier & Psychology and Behavioral Sciences: "office furniture" AND satisfaction (30 results)

EBSCO - Academic Search Premier & Business Source Premier & Psychology and Behavioral Sciences +: ("anthropometric measurements" OR anthropometry) AND (office furniture OR chair) AND ergonomics (45 results)

ProQuest Central: "office furniture" AND ergonomics (540 results)

ProQuest Central: "office furniture" AND "job satisfaction (225 results)

IEEE Xplore Digital Library: try searching chairs AND ergonomics (28 results)

Company & Industry information may also be found using library databases:

Mergent Online: Search IKEA 

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Association & Government Agencies

Additional resources are often provided by discipline associations:

  • AHFA: American Home Furnishings Alliance - Many of the resources require a member login, but some are free such as the Industry Resource Guide
  • BIFMA: Business + Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association - Provides stanandards.  [The standards are free with membership. Non-members are required to purchase copies, however the library is trying to see if we can purchase copies for our collection.]

Government Agencies provide studies, regulations, and statistics