[Paper Review #7 07/11/16] 3D Printing Pneumatic Device Controls with Variable Activation Force Capabilities

3D Printing Pneumatic Device Controls with Variable Activation Force Capabilities

Marynel Vázquez, Eric Brockmeyer, Ruta Desai, Chris Harrison, Scott E. Hudson, CHI '15


The paper demonstrates a fabrication method to provide variable activation force capabilities on 3D printed pneumatic controls. It well illustrates capabilities and limitations of 3D printed pneumatic controls. For example, the 3D printing allows fast implementation, but it is tricky to reduce support material from soft material. The paper implies that the authors tried various methods to shorten the procedure, make the structure robust to more air pressure, and ease the implementation for other researchers. The figures clearly illustrate the design and implementation of controls. Plus, the detailed information about the hardware invites the readers to investigate pneumatic interfaces further.


  • Hardware configuration: AIRPO pump (D20288), manual pressure regulator by Airtrol, SMC valves (S070C), silicon microstructures pressure sensor (SM5651), gauge, arduino. the pressure regulator and the gauge are no necessary for operating our controls, but were added for safety.
  • 3D printer: Objet Eden260V with resolution of 600dpi (42 microns)
  • 3D printer materials for the printer: http://www.stratasys.com/materials/
  • National pipe thread standard


  • Alligator toy
  • Responsive lamp
  • Volume knob: the knob increases friction when it is rotated clockwise beyond its middle position, to keep the volume levels in a safe range.
  • Side scrolling video game: the slider has more friction when the flight goes through clouds.
  • Radio tuner: the knob gives more frictions when users reach a station.

Expression I like

  • for illustrative purposes,
  • closed-loop (cf., open-loop)
  • off-the-shelf sensors (commercially available sensors)


  • I wonder if the dynamic pressure profiles (figure 5) will be distinguishable by users.

Further to read

  • Clark, L. How hair gel enables freeform 3d printing with an undo function. Wired.co.uk, July 2013. http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-07/25/ undo-3d-printing.
  • Malone, E., and Lipson, H. Multi-material freeform fabrication of active systems. In Proc. ESDA'08 (2008).
  • Slyper, R., and Hodgins, J. Prototyping robot appearance, movement, and interactions using flexible 3d printing and air pressure sensors. In Proc. RO-MAN'12 (2012).