Inflatables Final Project [Matthew Couch]

Author: Matthew Couch

Date: 2018-05-15


Here was the original proposal I had made for my final project for the class.

I went to the fabric market and asked for TPU. I guess I went to the wrong one, because nobody that I asked knew what I was talking about. In the end I showed a Taobao page of some TPU and an old vendor claimed that the plastic he was selling was similar, so I ended up buying like 200 plastic paper holders. What type of plastic it is I don’t know if I’ll ever know. Luckily it seemed to somewhat inflate and hold its shape relatively well.

After purchasing the plastic, I went to a music shop to buy reeds. To my surprise they were much more expensive than I expected (150 for a box) and in the end proved useless, because I was unable to figure out the science behind them. This is where I decided to change up my choice of final project using what I already had made out of the plastic. At this point, I had created this (used some strong tape because no place I looked had the glue I wanted and apparently people on the streets don’t have a random heat sealer laying around).

After making the base “box” of the proposed instrument, I started experimenting with the reeds to see how to get them to produce sound. Having no musical experience apart from a semester-long class of piano, I went to Wikipedia and YouTube to try and figure out how reeds were used to produce sound. After multiple days of testing with different tubes, plastic pipes, etc., I couldn’t get the reeds to produce sound. At all. So I had to come up with a different idea. While blowing up the inflatable box with nothing more than a straw and my breath, I noticed something that would lead me to the idea for the final project.

After blowing it up for a while I noticed that the plastic kept appearing very dirty. This triggered a memory back to the proposed idea in class of a lung that would have the aim of displaying the health hazards with smoking. As a current (and wanting to quit) smoker myself, the box started to look like a box of 10-pack cigarettes that you would usually buy at the duty-free areas at the airport. With the inside getting dirty, my new idea of putting finished cigarettes in came up. I want the box to represent both a lung after smoking as well as the cause of it, a box of tons of cigarettes. Being an inflatable, I had further ideas that work best in a presentation. Blowing cigarette smoke into the inflatable would not only cause it to inflate, but also leave smoke in it that would slowly seep out of the place of inflation. While the smoke may be leaving the body, the effects are still done: the lungs are dirtier, and they slowly deflate to nothing. Smoking doesn’t have an immediate impact on the lungs, but rather a slow and (at least in the beginning) unknown one. It also occurred to me to poor a little water into the inflatable to better display the slow dirtying of it. After the fact I realized this idea was horrible and the smell was unbearable, so in the future there could be a healthier way to depict this idea.

After doing this project I realized that being too ambitious can easily cause problems. First off, I have no knowledge of music. Second, my knowledge of inflatables is also not the greatest. Had I put more thought into it originally I could definitely come out with a better overall final project (rather than somewhat improvising after figuring out my original plan wasn’t going to work).

Inflatables | Lab 4: Arduino Lab [Matthew Couch]

Lab: #4 Arduino Lab

Date: 2018-04-24

Group: Christopher, Abubakar



In this lab we wanted to use the Arduino to power a pump and control a valve in order to inflate and deflate a small inflatable. We also used a pressure and temperature sensor.


  • Arduino
  • Air pump
  • Power supply (tuned to 6V)
  • Valve
  • Diode
  • Pressure/temperature sensor


We were given a diagram of what the end circuit should look like. The main problem that I have always experienced with Arduino is the fact that the direction you put each component into the breadboard can either make or break the circuit completely, and I never know which way is right.

First, in order to check if we had wired the circuit properly, we used a power supply plugged into one of the outlets that gave us 6V of power. The pump initially worked but we wired part of the valve incorrectly due to misunderstanding the circuit diagram, thinking D6 meant the dialog 6 port on the Arduino.

In this video you can see the valve clicking.

And here you can see the pump blowing air constantly:

The only problem is with the current setup, we have no code controlling the valve, and we also don’t even have the pump hooked up to the valve. This leads to the pump constantly blowing air, which is no good for our inflatable.

Now we needed to attach the on-board power supply and tune it to 6V, because that is what the pump and valve want. We ended up getting it to around 6.03V by turning the little screw and constantly checking the voltage reading.






Once we had it tuned, we had to setup the valve and pump again according to the diagram. The important part here was paying attention to which wire went to IN and which wire went to OUT. After getting it properly setup like before, with the valve opening and closing, and the pump constantly pushing out air, we used the code from the class website to control the opening and closing of the valve on a timer. This would allow us to inflate and deflate the inflatable.




We still had one thing left to do, which was connect the pump to the valve and then connect the inflatable to the valve. When the valve is closed, air is not allowed into the inflatable, causing it to deflate. On the other hand, when the valve is opened, air is pumped in and it inflates. Here is a video of how it worked in the end:

The last part of the lab was to add a pressure and temperature sensor to the Arduino and, again, use code from the class website that would print out the pressure and temperature to the Serial output. Here is a picture of the completed circuit:

Somehow we managed to wire it correctly the first time (the diagram was drawn really well) and the code worked. Here is a picture of the output:

Inflatables | Lab 3 – Making a Dome [Matthew Couch]

Date: 2018-04-17

Lab name: Making a Dome

Teammates: Matthew Couch, Maya Wang, Tyler Roman


In this lab we created an inflatable “dome” (dome-like object, anyways) using heat-sealed plastic.


  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Plastic (from the first lab)
  • Tracing paper
  • Heat sealer
  • Cardboard
  • Meter stick




First, we had to decide both the size of the dome and the number of gores it would have. To get the correct measurements, we used the Excel program provided in the PowerPoint.

We decided on a 50cm diameter and 8 gores (the lab required a minimum of 6). The measurements that the Excel program provided us are shown in the picture to the left.





After we had the measurements, we had to create a gore-template using the cardboard (as it would provide a sturdier surface to trace around compared to say, paper). Here is both the drawing and cutting of the cardboard gore-template. First, the height was drawn down the middle of the cardboard. Next, each width (there were 5 intervals between the bottom and the top point) was divided by two in order to center the interval. For example, if the width at interval 1 of height 1.9cm was 3cm, then from the middle line we would go each way 1.5cm (3cm/2).

The next step was to trace the gore-template onto the plastic eight times (the number of gores we would use) and cut them out. The market outline would prove useful later on when heat sealing the gores together.

Now, we had to heat seal all of the gores together. It was important not to hold the heat sealer on one part for too long, otherwise it might cause tears in the plastic, leading air to leak out when the product was inflated.

With the top of the dome completed, we lacked a base and a way to get air into the dome and inflate it. Knowing the diameter of the dome, we could use a compass with a 25cm measurement (the radius of our dome) to create the base. To account for the sealing that would be done, we created a base a little larger than what was actually needed and cut off some of the excess at the end. After cutting the base out, we heat sealed the base of each gore to the outer edge of the circle, leaving only a small piece not sealed in order to 1) flip the piece inside-out (so that the seams would be inside, leading to a more “aesthetic” dome) and 2) allow for us to attach the piece that would let us blow air in.

Now all we had to do was create a piece that would allow us to blow air into the dome. To do this, we simply heat sealed a rectangular piece of plastic and then flipped it inside out. Due to time constraints (and not wanting to deal with the stress of heat sealing it to an open hole, something that seems overly difficult), we taped it to the opening in the dome.





Here is a few pictures and a final video displaying the completed dome (actually worked out pretty well except for the pointed top).

Here is the video of Maya blowing the dome up:

Overall the project went really well and I think it should help me a bit when it comes to my final project.



Inflatables | Assignment 6 [Matthew Couch]

Date: 2018-04-17

I don’t only find this project interesting, but it will also be very useful for my final project. My instrument will require Arduino to use as sensors to know when to play sounds (at least for part of it, some of it might also just use air and reeds or something similar). I know how to use Arduino and know how to program, but this is very helpful for learning how to use an Arduino in conjunction with inflatables, specifically the parts/components necessary.

This page is actually more beneficial: because it shows the actual Arduino setup. The thing that concerns me after this is whether or not one Arduino is enough for the project. I will have to put some serious thought into the size of the instrument.

Inflatables | April 12 Assignment [Matthew Couch]

Assignment date: April 12

I think this design is very well done and could potentially help a lot of people. The way he made it cause even pressure is something I probably couldn’t come up with (at least at this point in the class). Mental health is a very important issue (as someone who has personally struggled with it, I know), but I honestly wonder how much help a “hug” like this would be. I wonder if there’s any studies around the idea of hugging a real person vs. hugging stuffed animals, especially at different ages. I know I, as a college student, probably wouldn’t relieve much stress by hugging a stuffed bear that pops out of the vest I am wearing. I also think it would be helpful if you had another way to inflate it besides blowing into it — the thought of blowing something up already makes me lightheaded and might even add to my stress or anxiety. I’m also curious if the vest is supposed to be worn at all times, and just pop out the bear when you want to hug something? Would that make it bulky or heavy? Speaking from our class standpoint, the design of the inflatables is very well done, but I don’t know how feasible the product actually is.

Picture of RE-Inflatable Vest

This product idea is actually incredible. I personally suffer from lots of back and neck problems as a result of using the computer so much with bad posture. Inflatables also seem to be the perfect solution for this — they can inflate at a certain time and be deflated with pressure. In the post it says every 20 minutes, but this could be changed in relation to the severity of each user’s problem. The parts are also very cheap, and the fact that it is an instructables that tells you everything you need to do to create makes it all the better. The video displaying the bubble test shows how simple yet effective the use of inflatables is in such a project.

This product is also amazing. The use of inflatables allows it to not be clunky and the materials used provide the same (if not better) protection as typical helmets. This, however, also protects the neck. One thing that might not seem so important, but in reality is, is the appearance of the deflated product. It doesn’t look bad, which is something that I honestly have found to be rare in the inflatable products that we have looked at so far. They don’t seem to go into too much detail about the materials used other than it being waterproof and functional, but the airbag itself would definitely be made of a safer material. The cost is a little high, but I have heard that quality biking helmets can be expensive regardless.

Inflatables | Assignment 2 [Matthew Couch]

Assignment date: March 22

Designer Theo Möller together with the team at Ingo Maurer, have designed 'Blow Me Up', an light that needs to be inflated to be installed.

The inflatable LED lamp is a very cool concept in my opinion. Inflation enables the light to be packed into a much smaller space than it takes up when blown up, which allows for easy transport, cheaper shipping, and the ability to take it basically anywhere you want (as a result of the easier transport). The first thing that somewhat bothers me is the fact that it is not blown up using your mouth. This means an extra purchase of some sort of compatible air pump is necessary for using the light. One thing that I didn’t seem to see in the article is the amount of electricity required to power it. It shows the wires being connected, but where do they lead to? Some sort of power supply is required, but I don’t know what it is. I think an alternate version of this with a built in power supply, or even the ability to solar charge it, would make this a great product to be used in places with little access to electricity. Overall, however, I think the idea is wonderful and is executed in a very creative way.


This inflatable suitcase design seems like a good idea, but honestly I don’t see any use for it. It looks to be about the size of a decently sized duffel bag. That in itself makes this product almost useless. The big “selling point” of this product is its durability and the ability to be compacted into a small space, but these have mostly already been solved by creative duffel bag designs. Here is a picture of what I mean:

Image result for collapsible duffel bag

Basically every duffel bag these days can do this. The only thing missing is the wheels (and I suppose the material used for the suitcase as well, but maybe it’s possible to be used on this type of duffel bag?). For this reason I just can’t see any purpose of the suitcase. Not only is it expensive, it solves no problems that haven’t already been solved. Duffel bags can be even be taken as carry-ons on flights, but can the suitcase (honest question, I don’t know)? Somethings don’t need to be inflated to solve a problem, just giving enough material to be able to hold what is necessary can do the trick.

Class 5: Lab 2 McKibben Air Muscle [Matthew Couch]

Lab 2: McKibben Air Muscle

Date: 3 April 2018

Group: Matthew Couch, Tyler Roman, and Maya Williams


  • Mesh tube (barely longer than balloon)
  • Balloon
  • Zip Ties (4 for the air muscle and 4 more to attach it)
  • Plastic tube
  • Syringe
  • Scissors


Create a McKibben air muscle that will then be attached to a platform to be used as an actuator (along with three other air muscles) to control the movement of the platform.


First, the mesh tube was cut to be a tad longer than the balloon, while trying to minimize the fraying at the ends. The balloon was then slowly moved through the mesh tubing in a method similar to that used with the Chinese finger trap. Once the sealed end of the balloon was slightly sticking out of the mesh tube, it was trapped tightly with a zip tie. Then, it was folded over that zip tie and closed tightly again by another to create somewhat of a ring. The plastic tubing was then placed into the open end of the balloon at the other end of the mesh tube and securely fastened with two zip ties, but not in a loop like the other end. The important part here was to make it tight enough to hold steady, but not too tight as to cut off air flow to the balloon.

Now it was time for us to attach our muscle to one of the open sides of the platform to be used as an actuator to control movement in that direction. We put a zip tie through the loop at the top (loosely, as to create another loop) and then another zip tie through that zip tie that was then attached to the top part of the platform. Two more zip ties were used in the same fashion to attach the bottom of our muscle (the open end with the plastic tubing sticking out) to the bottom of the platform. The balloon was to be attached tight enough to hold the platform steady, but not too tight as to cause it to pull aggressively towards us. With all four attached, the platform should be relatively balanced.

Now that it was all set up, each group attached a syringe (large air-pump type) to the plastic tube and pumped air into or released the air out of the balloons to make the balloon expand (and as a result, the muscle “contracts”) or make the balloon shrink (and as a result, the muscle “expand”). This caused movement in the direction(s) of the balloon(s) that was contracting. Here is a video taken by Maya to show what I mean.