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12. Soft robotics


This weeks was a very interesting week. I have never heard of inflatables prior learning find out in Fabricademy, therefore I was excited to do some research and have a look at all of the possibilites. I have figured out that there are many artist working with patterns and structures that change by inflating or deflating fluids. I would like to point out these three projects, because they stood out to me the most.

Pola Demaniuk

Using inflatables to create an unique fashion experience.

Photos by Pola Demianiuk


A company uses soft robotics in their innovative healthcare solutions.

Saskia Helińska

Saskia is one of the Fabricademy alumnies. Her final project was one of the pushes, to apply for Fabricademy. I really appreciate her project Unflatables.

Ziyun Qi

A fashion tech designer that has created this amazing inflatable vest, that should help people to maintain a good posture and remind them to stretch by skeezing the ballons on the back. She created also a page on instructables with tutorials to follow along.

RE-Inflatable Vest from Ziyun Qi on Vimeo.


Unfortunatelly this week I have been a little bit sick, so I was not able to make the molds with silicon inflatables, but I have managed to do a few test during the week. We have learn two strategies of how to make inflatables with a heatpresser and with a out of focused laser cutter. I really did enjoy the second technique a lot since it was easy, but also let me create the shapes more precisely

Inflatables made with heatpresser


- vinyl sheet
- baking paper
- heatpresser
- scissors
- straw


In order to create inflatables with the hearpresser I have followed these steps:

  1. I have made a simple drawing of the design I would like to achieve, just to make sense of the pattern I would get at the end. I have made a few errors, because I could not wrap around my head that the part, where the baking paper was is the part that is going to inflate
  2. I have cut out the pattern from the baking paper
  3. I have put the baking paper in the middle of the vinyl sheets facing the inwards.

Soft Robotics - Heatpresser by Linette Manuel

  1. Baked the parts together with heatpresser for 10 - 15 seconds on 150 degrees.
  2. I have tested the pattern
  3. If needed, heatpress again

Soft Robotics by Linette Manuel

Inflatables made by out of focusing laser cutter


- Laser machine
- 2.16cm welding
- scissors
- straw


To make inflatables using laser cutter, we had to out of focus the laser for the parts, that we want to bake:

  1. I have created a 2D file in Adobe Illustrator with the pattern I would like to created. I was adviced by a mentor Michelle, to make sure and think about the ways the air could flow inside of the pattern and how would the pattern work with the material. F.e. small diamond shapes make the pattern bend.

  2. We have prepared a welding to out of focus the laser. We have created a 2.16cm tall weld to help us maintain the same hight. We have tried to bake a small piece and it worked.

The settings for the laser that we have used -> speed: 100, max: 40, min: 10

  1. The process is basically working with two different distances of the laser nozzle. The focused one to cut the actual TPU and the out of focused one to bake the parts that we want to.

  2. To run the actual test I have upload my file to Light Burn software, that we use to operate the laser cutter. I have made sure that the outter line of the pattern has a different colour then the inner line of the pattern. Therefore I can use two different settings.

  3. I have made sure that the laser bed was clean. Placed the TPU folded in a half on the bed and tapped it down, so it does not move out of the place. I have closed the laser cutter, turned on the fume extractor (TPU creates a lot of fumes) and started cutting. Make sure that you are not using any material that uses chlorine.

  4. Firstly I have cutted the inner pattern with the out of focused laser, then I have cutted the outter pattern with focused laser.

  5. I have repeated this process to make a few tests.

Inflatables by Linette Manuel

Fabrication files

Last update: 2023-05-19