Learning About Heat Sealing

Last week Kari taught a class on heat sealing inflatables here at Super-Releaser. Aidan and I learned a while lot about what materials to use, design considerations and trade-offs, and a history of inflatables over the years.

As soon as he was let loose on the mylar Kari brought to demonstrate on, Aidan fabricated an actuator. Taking his lead, I tried making my own as well. Kari fabricated a laser cut and sealed waffle and a spiral. You can see video of them in action below.

What I found most interesting was how all of our different actuators behaved. Aidan's actuated by shrinking in-plane with its heat sealed seams. Mine did the same with a bending action. Kari's, however, actuated along the z-axis, which I didn't even know was possible for this fabrication method. I feel this suggests an interesting vocabulary of designs for getting a lot of different flavors of mechanical work out of something a simple as flat heat sealed inflatable material, which is way beyond what I'd assumed.

I'm eager to see what we can do building off these early experiments. I'm especially interested in automating the cutting and heat sealing processes to see what small variations can do to optimize different actuators.

- Matthew Borgatti

Matthew Borgatti