Inflatable gate

Hi everyone
I’m new in rhino community and also in rhino software so… my question is how to make an inflatable objects
and separate all the objects for high format printing to finally stitch/sew them together for one enormous inflatable gate/tent
like this one for example.
Do I need some special plugin for that?

Thanks in advance , Peter

Hi Peter,

This can be done with Rhino for sure, @Steve_Howden hes been doing it for years.
Also @hannesgrebin has been working on similar projects and could be of help as well.
Maybe either of them can give you some tips to get started.

However it’s not trivial, meaning you need to develop your own workflow and find the tools best for the job. There might be a tutorial or something around that I’m not a ware of.

In any case if you run into issues try to ask for help here, this community has proven to be a great place for fellow rhino users and developers to help out.


Thanks @Willem for introducing me. Yes, to fully make this thing working you could do the ExactFlat approach (they have an rather inexpensive online version out there but was buggy so far when I tested it and not sure how it would deal with images/textures but the normal approach would be ExactFlat and Armadillo (renders the flattened 1:1 textures to image files) or you could try if it’s simple to make rough outlines for the images and pull those AI vectors to the existing surfaces than squish, smash or unfold those surfaces with the related curves and then export it to Photoshop to 1:1 shapes and tweak the artwork right into place - this would be inexpensive not so accurate but fair enough for simple shapes.

what I know most inflatable or balloon companies have also some inhouse scripts to accelerate the process for repeating shapes like all kinds of balloons.

waiting for a simpler all in one approach, talked to the guys from Disney research they have a promising program to even check how shapes would look like inflated and the option to set inner bridges to better controll the overall shape.

Watch the video:

Here is the link to Airworks for you inspiration, they are the best for inflatables (not balloons or helium structures)

just to mention, most simple designs are rather pre-shopped shapes (look them up on Alibaba) and you would apply artworks with printed foils afterwards.

though about it, if you have a Poly modeler like Modo or Maya, you can unfold several UV patches to textures but you have to verify that all matching edges are always the same length and when welding the PVC later you have to create at least 1cm as an outline. If you have your texture to the edges, you need another PS plugin to extend your texture to those extra 1cm for overlapping the several patches when sewing or welding. Hope that helps

2 cool videos (a maya plugin & marvelous designer. this is cool stuff.

How to divide 3D model into small pieces?

did you understand it? can you guide me? I am also researching and wondering the same question

Can you specify your question. Do not understand properly. Thank you!

Uploading: image.png…
How to simulate when inflating like this?
and how do I determine to divide each grid to combine?

The easiest way is to cut them via the isoparms or through intersecting objects and intersecting curves.
You can just build simple shapes and you have to think about that all rectangular shapes for instance will blow up as round shapes.

Best way to really model those shapes that are more complex is to use a polygon modeler (I used Modo) and split the model on this application into parts. Then I would go into rhino and convert the object via subd in Rhino into nurbs surfaces. Then I would select certain “curve rings” in detailed regions like a face I don’t want to totally inflate round and use the selected curves for creating a “patch” surface.

This is the way to somehow sculpt and define an inflated figure. In textile production creating the figure as an inflatable they use the patch surfaces and sew or weld them into the outer shape in areas as told that I do not want to inflate so much. So these surfaces hold the defined shape of the whole figure together.

One point: I used the software “exactflat” for rhino for flatten and recalculating the flatten surface. back then I was a student. They will give you a student license for ~ 500$/year if you prove your immatriculation in an existing college otherwise the pride tag was 16k for the whole software. They also give you an extension which is called Armadillo in this package which will render the textures of all flatten objects into images.

You will then export both the textures for each flattened piece and their outlines as paths. You will add certain offset curves in my case extra 1cm as an overlap when the guys sew or weld the pieces together.

You will then take each outline path of each piece with that added offset curves as exported AI/Illustrator files and import them at the exact size to Photoshop. Then you will import the flattened and rendered textures as an extra layer into Photoshop.

The you will use a Photoshop Filter called “Solidify A” from Flaming Pear Software’s freebie plug-ins to extend the texture over the 1cm offset curves and select and delete the outer texture portion that is not needed. “Solidify A” is the fastest filter you can test also “Solidify B-D”

Freebies - Flaming Pear Software (add only the solidify filters to Photoshop filter directory)

When finished I would reduce the outlines to 10% opacity that you would not see them in the printed textures/parts but still enough opacity to give the manufacturer a guide to assemble the pieces when welding/sewing.

That’s pretty my former pipeline.

To this point I do not know a reliable different approach to work with flattened textured pieces. I believe the video with the inflated camel they just used the flattened UV-map but you have to test for yourself and it will be not accurate. But in inflatables accuracy is not so much needed.

People are impressed by the sheer scale of the Inflatables

Here are some references with more complex projects from the past. Astronaut without inner patch surfaces (damaged by too much pressure in the first try, with lower pressure it worked) it runs on helium. It is difficult as you have to calculate volume and weight that the whole construction would be lifted by helium.

The animals are just inflatables. The fabric is way thicker as in the Astronaut helium balloon.
But they had several inner patch surfaces which shaped the overall figure.

Concerning your question for a simple gate most manufacturers are capable of just taking your Illustrator file or Photoshop file and build the gate by themselves as they have programms where they just feed them with the files and export the different pieces.

Otherwise the same process applies but you do not need these inner patch surfaces as the gates are usually round when inflated. Most clients are fine with it.

Here is a picture of the files that I did on my own for one gate and applied the exact process, the next gate in this project was done by the manufacturer on his own.

Same applies for simple sphere shapes like the Earth/globe or other planets.
I did one on my own but next project I would just send them a highres rectangular texture which the manufacturers just use to make the tiling of the pieces on their own:

Good luck.



thank you very much, i am analyzing the data you shared

Impressive work @hannesgrebin thanks for sharing!

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An excellent reply, I have no interest in inflatable objects but I learned a lot from your post, than you.

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