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Inflatable Fabrics

Out of curiosity - does anyone know what kind of fabric is used for inflatable structures... like inflatable kites? At the same time -- how is it sewn to hold pressure? I'm curious because earlier I was thinking why inflatable tents (for say: camping) are not too common. I mean, it seems like a good idea. No poles and such to worry about -- just inflate and go. Any thoughts?

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jtobako10 years ago
the structures you are talking about don't hold pressure for long, they maintain their shape because they are constantly pressurized by a fan or air pump of some kind. if you were willing to cart the fan into the woods and deal with the extention cord or generator and all the noise of the fan, yes, you could make an inflateable tent.

Inflatable structures (aka airbeams) have developed rapidly in recent times, finding application in a variety of new engineering projects ranging from military tents in Iraq and Afghanistan to antennas in outer space. With necessity as the driving force, a team of engineers at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick forms the backbone of research into the technology. And the results have been spectacular - the technology has reduced the transportable weight of a tent by 66%, the transportable volume by 75% and the setup time by 50%.

Founded in 2002, the Center of Excellence for Inflatable Composite Structures headquartered at the Natick Soldier Center’s Collective Protection Directorate has managed a textile technology process to create airbeams that are lightweight and compact

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FrenchCrawler10 years ago
I always assumed that they were made out of strong rubber (much like the bouncing tents or large inflatable swimming pools) and I don't think they're sewn, but "welded" (overlap melting of the material) to form the seams.

This one idea wouldn't need much support to hold the pressure since it's only holding holding up the tent fabric: http://www.airzonetents.com/

Also, most people see it as "cheating" to use technology (unless it's deemed needed) when they decide to go camping cause they feel like getting away from today's pressures of life. Hence the reason why inflatable tents aren't all that popular. They may in time grow to be the cool thing to have though...

Just my 2 cents :P
trebuchet03 (author)  FrenchCrawler10 years ago
cheating... fair enough :P I mean, you could blow it up by mouth :D inflatable swimming pools are made from a type of PVC (typically). But the reason why I asked this... I saw an inflatable diver's sausage -- a big orange tube that is inflated to help a dive boat find you. It was made from what seemed like a nylon material and had stitching. I don't know if there was a bladder inside, but the closest analog I could think of was an inflatable kite which got the creative juices flowing (and taking up another page of my notebook).
I guess you have to consider what level of technology would be considered cheating. Modern tents are treated with 3M technology that makes the canvas waterproof. Is that cheating? What about using propane stoves rather than the old standby, white gas? (It's so much more fun to pump... Isn't it?) As to inflatable cloth… It's not uncommon to construct a shell from a strong material such as canvas or denim and have a thin, plastic airtight bladder inside. I don't know how well that would work for tents... Seems it would deflate as soon as you open the flap!
Yeah there are different levels of cheating, I know people who consider parking their RV's at walmart "camping"
Drackar10 years ago
One example i've seen is a rubberized nylon. take nylon, coat it in a flexible but gas-proof glue or epoxy and it would probably work