Inflatable Kites




Introduction: Inflatable Kites

About: Product Design Engineer & maker, roboticist, 3D modeling professional and 3D printing enthusiast. Creator and Founder of Otto DIY, a project that follows my passion for robotics, toys, open source hardwar…

Is kind of cool to think about easy setup kites, but more when you just have to blow them, don't you think so?
So without more intro bring it on.

Materials and tools to have:

PVC sheets, at least 5 meters for iterate any color, thinner better for the weight, but easy to broke.
High frequency machine or know someone had one.
Plastic PVC valves.
Plastic PVC eyelets (this one is an option for attach for the string)
Plastic PVC hangers (this one is another option for attach for the string, but more creative options could be done)
Inkscape for the drawings
Kite reel off course

Step 1: Know the Process for Make Inflatables

Here on Instructables there are lot content about kite design so i will focus on the inflatable part. Inflatable design is commonly seen in beach products that most of them are made in PVC sheets and a one way plastic air valve, the other ones are huge dummies that  need an electric fan so could be made of some fabrics and other materials; but they could be more useful in many things like this time to work as easy setup frame for the "kite".

The first and most important thing to know about inflatable design is the process to make them that is HF (High frequency) welding sometimes called RF welding; is a manufacturing process where two plastic parts of the same material (PVC generally) are welded together using an electromagnetic field (27,12 MHz).The objects that needs to be welded are clamped together between two metal electrodes and a high frequency voltage is supplied. As a result the molecules in the material starts to vibrate and heat up. Eventually the material will melt, and the force supplied by the electrode will melt (fuse) the two surfaces together. After cooling a permanent seam has been created. The resulting weld seam can be as strong - or even stronger - than the surrounding material. Here is were the first and "hard" to get material appear, find a HF machine. Depend of where you live could be more easy to find, my experience was to search the companies that make inflatables sounds logic, but is confusing when you find that most of them focus on the huge dummies that are made by sewing so be careful, is more easy to find on advertising factories that made products like clappers, balloons or even plastic tents, also this people have the valves, accessories and great inventory of electrodes shapes.. There  are many parameters in the process (Electrical power, Pressure applied, Welding time, Cooling time, Materials involved, The specific geometries, Thickness, Area to be welded), so for a first time i suggest to know someone expert with this machines.

The same machine is used for weld the valve and accessories like plastic hangers and eyelets

More details and videos of how it works here:

A DIY option is glue but apply it very well between sheets.

Step 2: Design It

The second thing in inflatable design come from the process; The sheets (the second material to get PVC sheets that comes in all colors and flavors) are putted one over another (like sewing) so you are restricted to work with 2D shapes but thanks to the air this 2 sheets into cool 3D shapes, even welding in different planes you can make almost everything in an inflatable version. As example look welding lines of a swim ring two sheets are welded in a form of two concentric circles 2D that inflated transform in an 3D torus.

Third tings based on experience: use rounds in your design, make big things and the most important iterate; the most cool and sometimes headache things about inflatables at the beginning, is that when you try something new you will never know what 3D shape is going to take by blowing air into.

So basically that it is talking about design, you need to plan everything, make many ideas, if you don't want to spend a lot on samples. 

The design of this kite is made using a vector program like inkscape, Even free plans of kites could work just think about the inflatable zones, the valve and hangers; is just the front view of the kite traced with double line as easy follow guide for welding.

some 3d rendering in Creo parametric for good show (not necessary step)

Step 3: Fabricate or Find Someone Do for You

In this instructable i show the prototype of the arc kite type, other designs didn't work well. Print the drawings in real scale so the the design can be traced while welding.

The first thing to weld is the one way valve that use a sometimes called electrode (cylinder) or mold or die. Also is good to weld eyelets ir hangers for the rope. (first prototypes i tried many places for test different configurations)

HF welding process uses" electrodes" that are good electric conductors as copper or aluminium, for samples thick wires are used for so any curve could be made for achieve almost any design, remember the rounds.

Needs expertise to made a proper continuous weld that doesn't allow air come in or out.

Step 4: Try It

If everything works well; no leaks, just pump air through the valve.

Same advises as other kites don't forget safety, speed wind, string adjustment and someone help never enough.

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    5 years ago

    This can be approximated with plastic garbage bags, thin clear painters tarps, Walmart type plastic bags, leaf bags etc. Overlap or align plastic for seams to be welded with a small soldering iron n a flat surface. Place clear wax paper over the area you weld to keep the soldering iron from tearing the plastic. It takes minor practice on scraps to make good continuous strong seams. I made small tubes off the 'to be inflated' areas, just big enough to insert a drinking straw for inflation by mouth. For permanent inflation pinch the tube to keep air in, then roll the tube over a dowel to keep it in while you press a straight edge on the tube just above where you seal it with the soldering iron. Let it cool for a few seconds before you lift the straight edge. You can tie off the excess tube instead. Use the excess as a place to tie tails, spreaders etc. if you plan ahead. My first such kite was an approximately 18 inch tall ventless sled from a dry cleaner's bag. The 2 spars were about 3 in. wide when flat and needed very little inflation pressure to fly just fine. It was the lightest wind flyer I ever saw. It would drift nearly horizontally with only the slightest tension on the button thread I used for flying line. When fully reeled out, it climbed quickly to a good angle and flew just as well as any sled. The welding process scales up well. Play with it a little on scraps of various types and thickness to get an intuitive feel for what you can do.


    Reply 5 years ago

    wow! thanks very insightful