One of my last projects at wonderMakr was the internet-run helium balloon inflator for JWT on behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network.
We were tasked with creating a machine that was capable of automatically inflating a helium balloon based on external input from a website. Since all we needed was a go signal, we weren’t too worried about that side of things. But a machine to inflate helium balloons? Surely that exists, right?
Yes of course! However for our purposes and timeline this machine was impractical and wouldn’t get to us in time. So it was our job was come up with some solutions. The first decision made was to use balloon gaskets the machine in the video uses. One, we knew they worked. Two, we knew we could get them in time.
Once we had a gasket to work with, the next challenge was how to press a fitting to the gasket tightly enough to inflate the balloon. I went about modelling the gasket in 3D as quickly as I could. It makes it easier to prototype 3D.
We saw that we needed something robust for the inflation nozzle and our solution was to commission a custom nozzle from a machinist. We visited a machinist with our gasket and hosing with connector for the helium tank and our notes on general fitment with our non-existent machine. I wish I had a photo of his nozzle. It was gorgeous.
I also needed to design the framing and general assembly for the entire machine for the fabricators.
Next up was how to feed balloon after balloon to the nozzle. Thus began a prototyping binge. I designed several versions of a separation and feed system only to hit up against a reliability wall. Finally I started to think maybe just spinning the gasket into place would be the right solve.
Thus began the iterative process of designing the perfect servo-driven rotator.
The campaign garnered recognition earning two merits from the ADCC
ADCC Directions 2017: Merit Interactive Innovative Use of Technology
ADCC Directions 2017: Merit Interactive Non-Profit/Public Service
There were some other challenges but I’ll have to add those at a later date. Enjoy the balloon inflator in action!