3D Printing Pneumatic Device Controls with Variable Activation Force Capabilities

We explore 3D printing physical controls whose tactile response can be manipulated programmatically through pneumatic actuation. In particular, by manipulating the internal air pressure of various pneumatic elements, we can create mechanisms that require different levels of actuation force and can also change their shape. We introduce and discuss a series of example 3D printed pneumatic controls, which demonstrate the feasibility of our approach. This includes conventional controls, such as buttons, knobs and sliders, but also extends to domains such as toys and deformable interfaces. We describe the challenges that we faced and the methods that we used to overcome some of the limitations of current 3D printing technology. We conclude with example applications and thoughts on future avenues of research.


We are thankful to Disney Research and The Walt Disney Corporation for continued support of this research effort. Thanks to Moshe Mahler for modeling the alligator.

M. Vázquez, E. Brockmeyer, R. Desai, C. Harrison, S. E. Hudson. 3D Printing Pneumatic Device Controls with Variable Activation Force Capabilities. Proc. of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2015.