Help Build a Giant Inflatable Instructables Robot Answered
Can you keep a secret?
For the Austin Maker Faire in October, I'm hoping to build an 8-foot tall inflatable Instructables Robot. I want it to be easy to find the Instructables booth.
For his wedding, Saul, built an inflatable elephant using many of the techniques from inflatable kite design and papercraft. There's a lot of CAD work required, and since I know there are some people here much better at Rhino and Blender than me, I'm asking for help. If we can pull it off, you'll get the joy of having something you designed be made very large.
Here's the process and where you can help:
1) creating a model of the robot that is appropriate for cutting in fabric, sewing together, and inflating. chooseausername did a brilliant job here, but the model has too many polygons, and just reducing the number of polygons in his model results in something that doesn't quite work.
So first, I need a model of the robot that is less than 1000 polygons while still retaining the robot's personality. Also, since it will be inflated, the robot's wheels should be retracted (its legs should just be cylinders of the same height as its legs plus wheels). We can print on the fabric, so the line on its belly doesn't need to be physical, but its buttons, eyes, ears, and antennae should stick out as they normally do; no need for individual fingers. Make sure all the normals point outward in the model.
Saul isn't quite ready to share his CAD files, so I've included screenshots of his elephant as an example. The full grey elephant has 1000 polygons.
2) modifying the model to account for real-world limitations and to make it easy to import into Pepakura Designer. As the elephant is symmetrical, Saul cut it in half, split out various body parts -- ensuring that they exactly fit back together on the vertices of the polygons (seam lines for sewing), -- and made some part of the ears a single piece of fabric which would not inflate. In the robot's case, we would probably split the legs, body, head, and ear-and-antennae assemblies. The antennae will probably need to be a slight larger diameter than they normally are. Since the robot isn't symmetric, we'll keep it whole.
3) using Pepekura to create panels
4) arranging the panels, adding seam allowances, and sewing instructions.
5) repeating steps 1 - 4 to create the bladders for inflation with a model that's slightly bigger than the skin.
6) getting a factory to cut and sew everything together.
As you can see, step 1 is the most important part. If you'd like to help, create a model of the robot, and add it to a step of the collaboration I've started here (PM me for an invite):
We definitely have more than one person working, as I'm sure everyone will have something valuable to contribute.
If you're interested in other giant inflatable creatures, leave a comment here. If we can streamline this process, we might make a complete zoo!