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Making inflatables with thermo transfer vinyl

by Adriana Cabrera and Prof. Lily Chambers

Difficulty: Elementary

Duration: 20 min


Fusion interfacing is applied to textiles to transfer material or print. It is a practical and easy way to make inflatables anywhere, using transfer vinyl Thermo polyurethane (TPU) and baking paper. You can use the baking paper sandwiched between two layers of TPU. This paper can withstand high temperatures, creating air chambers after sealing the layers.


Prerequisite & Background topics

Before starting the tutorial, you can familiarise yourself with the following topics and terminology through previous tutorials and browse the resources linked under each item.

Introduction to inflatables


Materials & Equipment




CHI22_Hands-on REDUCE
Download PDF • 273KB


Draw your shape on

the paper, using the examples

below, as a reference,

first on the baking paper to

understand what you will

inflate. Next, include the

design of the channel that

will supply your air chambers.

Outline your Inflatable

with enough space on

the two TPU for these

elements to seal ( seaming

allowance) of at least 5 mm.

If you are not sure of the

cut, you can consider the

surface a square and cut it

out later to your preference.

!! If you have an asymmetrical part, remember to cut out the mirror to make the interface between the two pieces of vinyl on the opaque side of the vinyl.

After cutting out,

the three parts place

carefully together in the

sandwich construction, as

shown in the picture.

Vinyl (top side) paper, vinyl

(bottom side)

Then, pass the

iron at 115 °C / ___F and

press the surface gently to

seal it,

You can also add textile

to make the construction

more robust and define the

bending/torsion direction.

Check that all sides are


Insert the tube into

the air feed channel. We

will fix it using a shrinking

tubes tube and/or using a

cable tie for the best grip.

Shrink the tube using a heat source, such as a lighter or a hot air gun, making sure you have some distance so as not to cause damage to the vinyl or the tube.

Now you can test your inflatable using a hand air pump, connect the pump and see if your inflatable is not leaking any air.

If there are any leaks, iron the inflatable using the paraffin paper between the iron and your inflatable as protection.

If your inflatable is in perfect condition, you can use the FLOW.IO device to control its movement.


Variations and Things to try

Building the Chambers

Here we will build the chambers directly on parchment paper, thinking of a similar result but thinking in the interaction and direction of the chambers as the shape of a skeleton for the inflatable.


BIT Bio-inspired Textiles University of Arts London.

Building a figure

In this part, we will experiment with the principles of hinges mechanisms and the design of chambers to build the shapes of an object or actuated material. You can use the templates and apply geometrical principles such as mirror rotation, etc.) playing with the baking paper and the modules we provide you,

Think about bending, twisting, and actuation of different channels. Locomotion; It is no rights and wrongs; try to experiment with the shapes

Building a figure template III


Post-requisite topics & Going beyond

From 3D to 2D Exactflat Plugin

Exaxtflat is a software that makes the process of flatting patterns faster and less complicated to design, develop, prototype, cost and manufacture any product that incorporates composites, industrial fabrics or technical textiles. Integrated with leading 3D CAD packages, it does this by:

  1. Replacing manual processes with digital processes using Exactflat’s proprietary algorithms.

  2. Consolidating separate and distinct workflows into one environment on one platform.

  3. Parametrically linking related tasks so that design changes in one area are automatically reflected in associated areas.

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