How Office Chair Mechanism Works- 5 Common Tilt Mechanisms

If you’ve started your search for a new office chair, I’m sure you’ve come across terms like swivel tilt mechanism. knee-tilt mechanism. Synchro-tilt mechanism. How does the office chair mechanism work? What do these terms mean? what is a mechanism? what is the difference between these tilt functions?

Will they affect the way that I reclined in my office chair? In this article, I’m gonna answer all of these questions by going over the most common office chair mechanisms. And how they will affect the way that you use your office chair.

When you see terms like knee-tilt, swivel tilt, synchro-tilt this is referring to the way that your chair reclines. And functions and this is going to be dictated by the mechanism that you have for your office chair. what is a mechanism?

A mechanism is a mechanical component attached to the underside of your office chair. And this gives the chair its functionality. It’s different adjustments there’s gonna be quite a few different types of mechanisms. Out there we’re gonna focus on the five most common that we see in our industry

Today we’re gonna start from the most basic and kind of work our way up and scale up to the most expensive models that we tend to see. The first mechanism that we’re gonna take a look at is going to be the most basic mechanism and the mechanism that we typically find on the least expensive chair models.

How Office Chair Mechanism Works- Swivel Tilt

This is gonna be swivel tilt also called Center tilt. We’ve got a chair representative here and I’ll just kind of show you how the functions work.

How Office Chair Mechanism Works

There are two main things that we’re gonna focus on. When we look at this chair the first is going to be the point at which the chair reclines. Which is going to be right underneath the center of the chair. The second thing that we’re gonna look at is the angle between the backrest and the seat.

It remains the same when you’re reclining it does not change. This is going to be constant. Now how does this affect your organ on the posture in your sitting experience? There’s gonna be two drawbacks to a center tilt or swivel tilt mechanism. This is why it is the least expensive model.

How Office Chair Mechanism Works


when reclined back like this in rock you can see that my knees come up and it forces my feet up off the ground. This is not going to be good for an ergonomic position. The second thing is that this is to be the most difficult chair to actually rock and recline.

Because you have quite a bit of weight on this half of the chair compared to the back half of the chair. So I actually have to put the effort in and push down on my feet to get the chair to rock back. Now typically these chairs do have tension adjustments.

So you can control how difficult it is to move front and back. And they’ll typically come with one locking position fully upright. So I can lock this position upright and then I’ll stay working like this. So the smallest amount of functionality.  But usually, the smallest cost.

How Office Chair Mechanism Works- Knee Tilt Mechanism

knee tilt mechanisms are going to be the next that we take a look at here and these are going to be an upgrade to the swivel tilt in the center.

The tilt mechanisms that we just took a look at are gonna be similar in the respect that they do have tension adjustments. You can control how difficult it is to rock back and forth in the chair and you can usually lock it in the fully upright position.

swivel tilt vs knee tilt

For those computing and tasking applications the biggest difference is that the point of the recline is moved from the center of the chair up to just behind your knees. So I’ll demonstrate here with the secret lab chair the two biggest differences that comes from moving the pivot point up is one.

When I wreak line you can see that my knees are not being raised and my feet are not being raised off the ground. So it’s a much more comfortable experience. While I’m rocking back and forth I don’t have to worry about going up on my tippy toes. Like you saw in the last chair my feet remain flat.

The next thing is that I have much more weight behind my legs than in front of my legs. So it takes much less work to rock in the chair. It’s much more fluid and much more natural. And this is gonna be one reason why we do see knee tilt options being quite popular in applications.

Read: How to fix an office chair that leans back!

Like leather office chairs and conference rooms or managerial situations where you’re not doing a ton of tasking and

computing and a lot of meetings and that type of thing.

Multi-function Mechanism

The third type of mechanism that we’re gonna highlight is going to be a multi-function mechanism. And we’ve got a chair from your tech seeing the 498 SL here to show you how a multi-function mechanism works.

how multi-function office chair mechanism works

It’s going to be similar to a swivel tilt or a Center tilt mechanism in regards to the positioning of your pivot point. And what it feels like when you are in a free refine. So when I find the middle pedal here you can release the seat and create that normal easy free recline. And it does pivot from right underneath you with that Center tilt motion.

So it is bringing my knees up and my feet off the ground. The biggest difference between a multi-function and a swivel tilt is that I’m able to control where I lock this seat in position. So with this paddle, I can lock it here.

multifunction tilt lock function

If I want to just stay here I can lock it in a normal position. I can even lock it in a forward position or forward seat tilt. Which is not something that you’re going to get out of a swivel tilt or a knee tilt chair. I can also lock it in any position in between there.

So I’m not limited to just a few positions. Next, I can control the same amount with the backrest. So I can release the backrest and let it be at any angle that I want. So I’m really free to choose what angle my chair is at before I disengage it to allow it to recline.

So I’m able to open it up or make it more forward and then start my reclined. So you definitely have a lot more control over your tasking. This is gonna be a nice option for those ergonomic high intense tasking applications. As compared to a swivel tilt because you do just get that much more adjustability.

And that much more control out of your chair.

Synchro-tilt Mechanism

Synchro-tilt is gonna be the next mechanism type that we look at. And this is gonna be a popular choice for a lot of mid to high-end ergonomic office chairs. This is gonna be a design where the seat and the back move at different angles.

So it’s typically a two-to-one ratio where the backrest might move two inches and the seat tilts up one inch. This helps to keep you in an ergonomic position throughout the entire recline without lifting up your feet off the ground.

And causing the problems that we see with the swivel tilt or the center-tilt mechanism. So the design makes it much easier to recline. It creates a much more fluid motion than a center-tilt mechanism. But it doesn’t give you the same rocking feeling as a knee tilt mechanism.

Read: How to fix an office chair that leans forward!

It’s kind of more designed for an ergonomic position. Where you’re gonna, be a little bit more static in. But not necessarily constantly moving like you can in a knee tilt chair. So I’ll sit down here and I’ll kind of demonstrate and show you what I’m talking about here with the cxl chair.

And one thing that we do find with most synchro-tilt chairs is they will have tension control and lockable positions. Most of them will have multiple locking positions to put your backrest in three-four five different positions if you choose.

How synchro-tilt Mechanism Works

So you’ll see that when I’m in the chair the headrest is out of the way. But when I reclined you can see that when I move the back it’s tilting back further than the seat is moving up. so it’s not keeping me at the same angle when I move.
This is why my knees and my feet aren’t coming off the ground. As I reclined back but I’m still able to recline back have a nice open posture. My arms are still here with me in a good position. So it’s comfortable through the entire recline and that’s why it’s used for a lot of mid to high-end organized office chairs.

Weight Sensitive/Mechanism Free

The final mechanism type that we’re gonna take a look at today is going to be weight-sensitive, sometimes called mechanism. This is gonna be a design that was typically reserved for mid to high-end chairs. But recently we’ve actually seen this design on low to mid-range chairs.

So it’s certainly a bit more popular across the industry as a whole. And it definitely needs to be addressed as a mechanism just like the other four that we’ve taken look at here today. so the big drawback with a weight-sensitive or mechanism-free design is that you do not have any knobs.

How Office Chair Mechanism Works

Or levers or anything to control with tension or tilt or locking or seat angle or back angle you just get in the chair adjust it to your height. And you’re ready to use it the chair will automatically recline and adjust and put you in an ergonomic position. Based on your height weight and how you are positioned in the chair.

Now the main attraction of these chairs is going to be the simplicity and the minimalistic design you don’t have knobs

and levers sticking out of your chair. It often creates a much cleaner design and it’s much easier to use. Anyone that hasn’t used the charity to simply walk up to it sits down and starts using it and those are the main attractions. But there isn’t going to be any rhyme or reason as to the way that the chair moves.

Like we saw with four other mechanisms to highlight that with to high-end weight-sensitive reclined chairs here the freedom by the human scale and the Kazem by Herman Miller. So I’ll hop in the freedom chair here this is one of the original weight-sensitive reclined chairs.

And you can see that when I’m in the chair and I move back it puts me in an ergonomic position but it’s much more different than a typical synchro-tilt or a knee tilt mechanism.

Read: How To Recline Office Chair

But it kind of brings you down it kind of forces your hips up a little bit more and puts you into this open hip angle position so not necessarily the best chair. If you’d like to kind of recline and relax because it doesn’t allow you to rock.

Now the chasm is gonna be a much different experience when I sit down in the Kazem it’s gonna be closer to the secret lab chair that we looked at with the knee tilt mechanism. So when I recline in this chair you can see I just kind of sink back and then as I sink back it just kind of puts me in this mid position.

Here I’m not fully upright and I’m not fully back it just puts me in this position that it feels is the most ergonomic for me.

But I’m still easily able to move back and forth and rock. So this is definitely a better choice for economics. And for tasking, this is probably a better option for executives management style meeting rooms where you tend to relax and rock back and forth.

If you Like our article please read our other articles on ergonomic office chairs!

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