Jan 19, 2023, 12:00PM to 1:50PM

Welcome back. The main objectives for today are introducing ad hoc techniques for combining heat-sealed pneumatics with textiles. We will spend a brief time in Studio A then move downstairs to HL A4.


  1. Please sign up for a presentation slot for the Precedent Research assignment.
  2. Please take a few moments to fill out the Office Hours Poll.

Sample Precedent Reviews

We’ll begin with a few brief presentations from the instructors on related work. intended as samples for the assignment. As you hear these and others, please always be thinking of the question you might ask.

Ad Hoc Pneumatics

Our primary objective is to produce some kind of motion in fabric actuated by breath or hand pumps. Some main considerations we will discuss:

  • What is the closed chamber which constitutes the actuator? An actuator is any kind of device for translating movement or energy from one mode to another: an electric motor produces movement and force using electrical energy, a pneumatic cylinder produces movement and force using pressurized air.
  • How does the actuator shape change? A mechanical actuator performs work by producing a force acting through a motion. The force of pressurized air can be substantial as the air pressure is multiplied by the surface area (e.g. 1 psi breath multiplied by 10 sq in surface produces 10 lbs force). But coupling the movement to a mechanism requires identifying the specific shape modes. E.g., many simple pouches can act as tension actuators which shorten across the width as they inflate. Or with more constraint they can act as compression actuators which widen to separate other parts.
  • How is that change of shape coupled to the fabric? It can be direct (e.g. pure inflation) or coupled through a rigid hinged structure.
  • How is the motion reversed? Is there a spring action created by the fabric compliance or a component such as a rubber band? Does gravity act to return the motion?

Textile Adhesion

The objective for the hands-on session today is to continue exploration of the pneumatic actuation elements in the context of fiber materials. We will begin with simple, ad hoc techniques for constructing fiber and fabric structures in order to focus on the kinetic potential of the materials.

Here are some questions to consider as we explore:

  • What are all the ways in which the material can move? Can it expand, bend, fold? How does the visual effect vary?
  • What are the ways the plastic actuators and fabric can form structures? Can they be linked at points, suspended, encapsulated?
  • What movements emerge? What kinds of deliberate movement can be created?
  • How can the fabric amplify a small motion into a larger effect? How can rigid or semi-rigid elements be used to provide leverage or counterbalance?
  • How can a fast tempo be evoked using small actuators? What is the limit of slow tempo using large actuators?
  • Can you construct something wearable? Something environmental?

Move to HL A4

We will move downstairs and meet in the HL A4 fabric lab for the remainder of the session. We will group into ad hoc pairings to work together on small samples and share them at the end of class.


  1. Read the syllabus all the way through.
  2. The first assignment is due before class next Tuesday. Please sign up for impulse sealer time on our Google Sheet to avoid crowding.
  3. The second assignment is a brief report on a related project from outside the class, including a brief in-class presentation and a blog post. We will have three students present at the start of class each day beginning next Tuesday. Please sign up for a slot using Precedent Research Presentation Sign-Up.