3D Printing Firm Inflatables with Internal Tethers

This paper presents a technique for 3D printing firm inflatables with consumer-grade fused-deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers and flexible filaments. By printing bridges inside the inflatable to tie its walls, internal tethers can retain the shape of the surfaces when inflated. This internal structure gives extra stiffness to the inflatables while retaining them lightweight and portable; the inflatables can be squished down to reduce the volume and inflated back to a sturdy state. Compared to conventional drop-stitch fabrics, the length of internal tethers can be easily varied owing to 3D printing, allowing us to fabricate angled surfaces as well as parallel surfaces. We evaluate the physical properties of the 3D-printed inflatables with internal tethers made with diverse printing parameters. Finally, we demonstrate the feasibility of our technique in custom inflatable design with example applications.

C. Han*, R. Takahashi*, Y. Yahagi*, T. Naemura, “3D Printing Firm Inflatables with Internal Tethers,” Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts (ACM CHI), pp 1-7, Virtual, May 2021(*Authors contributed equally).