On Air – pneumatic knit

On Air – pneumatic knit

  • Chapeau! inflated
    Chapeau! inflated
  • Chapeau! deflated
    Chapeau! deflated
  • Chapeau! resists attacks
    Chapeau! resists attacks
  • Knitshell
  • Knitshell valve
    Knitshell valve
  • Pneumatischer Verbinder
    Pneumatischer Verbinder
  • Pneumatischer Verbinder Close-up
    Pneumatischer Verbinder Close-up
  • structural tests
    structural tests
  • early rendering of the idea
    early rendering of the idea
  • sketches
An early material test on pneumatic knit. The textile gets inflated and deflated
¿Qué hace?

A pneumatic thread is the basis for a new textile of very unique qualities: When deflated it is soft and flexible, while inflated it becomes so structurally strong with meshes so narrow that it could either protect a bicyclists’ head or bond different materials and objects together in one safe knot.


An empty open plastic bottle is easily crushed with bare hands. But if it's closed this becomes almost impossible. Inspired by the idea to strengthen an object not by artificial material and wall thickness but by using pure air as a constructive element I focussed on the interaction between air and membrane and implicitly the perception of air as a material.
Because air is a very exeptionally element: It is everywhere, available, 100 percent ecological and it keeps us alive.

¿Cómo funciona?

„On Air“ is the design of a new material, the „pneumatic knitting“. The thread is an expansible tube covered with a textile tube. When filled up with air the fiber structure of the textile cover cause a fixed diameter expansion while they contract the tube at the same time. Bound in knitted structure the contraction and volume expansion leads to stiff and very firm material.

Two examples demontrate the potential of the contractile textile:

1) The head protection „Chapeau!“ and „knitshell“ only need little pumping to set up. They protect the biker who may deflate the air for transport. Through its knitted structure the head protection allows air ventilation and serves for connecting the straps.

2) The „pneumatic connector“ provides, when deflated, a structure that can be pierced by objects and semi-finished products. When filled up with air it gets firm and clamps everything that penetrates it. The pneumatic connector allows spontanious employment and structures being reversible at the same time.

There is chances and also plans to apply this material in a medicine context, for example a continuously variable bandage. Another idea is the application for blood pressure gauge where the air ventilation eases the wearing comfort especially for long term treatment.

The material could furthermore serve for handling systems in industrial context for lifting and transporting sensitive products.

Etapas del desarrollo

The first experiments were all about influencing a flexible, elastic membrane. Balloons have been taped up, which strongly modified their expansion. In a next step I was able to find out that the precise taping up of an oblong-shaped balloon caused a directional expansion. I was able to bend it around the corner. Further experiments with solid furniture that builds up by itself with the help of expansive elements and studies on air withdrawal from hollow objects with specific wall thicknesses and geometries were very promising. But the possibility of directing the expansion of a membrane still fascinated me. By experimenting with three similar oblong-shaped balloons that were fixed together lengthwise I understood that the interplay of the membranes was a particularly interesting field. By inflating air into one of these membranes the overall structure moved away from it. By deflating air from one of these membranes the overall structure moved towards it.
From then on I replaced the balloons with a thin silicone tube and experimented with woven and knitted fabric. That way the silicone tube can be considered as a pneumatic thread. As a final improvement I used a braided sleeve around the silicone tube which absorbed its surface tension and allowed pumping it up to a maximum. At the same time it enabled a contraction effect of the textile structure which made it a pneumatic, contractile fabric.
The result is not a new material but a fabric out of a pneumatic thread, a fabric with completely new characteristics and possibilities.


The work was submitted at "Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014" (bavarian state award for young designers 2014). The nominatings are still ongoing.