Making a Leaf Blower Powered Inflatable Air Dancer!

Step 1

We needed to start things off with a rough proof of concept, so I got a good chunk of nylon material to sew into a tube. To do this, I folded the edge of the material uniformly and cut it. I also sewed a pocket for an elastic to slip into. Next, I folded the fabric the long way and then stitched all the way up the side to create a tube. Finally, I flipped it inside out and slipped some ½” wide elastic into place.

Step 2

Then it was time to jump into our first trial run! The purpose of this test was to see how the Makita blower worked with the fabric all on its own, with no manipulation.

It didn’t work. The blower kicked off plenty of great air pressure, but it just wasn’t possible to line things up so the air was evenly hitting the walls of the tube which produced a crumpling effect.

Step 3

I needed to design a simple system to widen up this great airflow, but in a way that would diffuse the air evenly when it hit the fabric tube so it wouldn’t crumple. The system I came up with had two 3D printed components: a simple reducer which widened the width of the airflow, and a diffuser. I hopped onto OnShape and designed three different diffusers to be 3D printed.

Step 4

I wanted to give my system a test spin. I secured a piece of 6″ ducting to the back of the diffuser and attached the other end of the ducting to the 3D printed reducer. I used a 4″ dust collection hose on the other side of the reducer. The point of this setup was really just to make sure it wouldn’t blow apart on us. Good news, it didn’t!

Step 5

Now we turned our attention to the 3D printed pieces. The first diffuser had an inset on the backside. We added a hole, which didn’t really make all that much difference. Diffuser #2 was exactly the same, but we reversed the pocket and widened the ridge. Then we went one step further with Diffuser #3. Instead of widening the ridge, I added a second one to see if that would diffuse the air a little bit more.

Step 6

Then it was time for the official diffuser test! The good news was that Diffuser #1 did alleviate the crumpling issue at the base of the tube. The bad news was that it still didn’t work. Diffuser #2 was just the tiniest bit better, so #3 was our only hope. It was a very slight improvement, but still pretty bad. In a last-ditch effort, we cut a few inches off the top of the tube.

Step 6

Then it dawned on us that we should probably check how the battery was doing in the blower. It was pretty low, so we switched it out with a new one. That did the trick and Diffuser #3 was the winner.

Step 7

With the general vision down, it was time to get some real measurements going. To do this, I started by getting the dimensions of the prototype tube and then created the rest of the design in Illustrator. This fabric handled exceptionally well on the laser cutter.

Step 8

Then it was time to lay everything out and sew this guy together. I started with the face, securing it with a running stitch. Next, I attached all of the body pieces, slowly building up the first side.


And then I made the second side. From here, the two good sides went together, and then I did one really long seam around the perimeter of the whole thing, leaving holes at the ends of the arms and at the top.

Step 9

The last thing to do was to flip him inside out and see the finished product. I sewed on his super-cool hair-do, and then I cut a Makers Workshop logo onto window vinyl and used painter’s tape as transfer tape to make a nice sticker for him.

Step 10

Next, I made a box to put all of that ugly plumbing hosing into and give it a tidier look at the end. To do this, I used the box-o-matic app, a laser cutter, and 1/4″ underlayment. I airdropped the design over to the MacBook, put it in Lightburn, and got to cutting.

Step 11

The wood was so warped that I had to cut one line at a time. This worked out perfectly, and I had my pieces in no time because our Laguna EX Laser Cutter has a fantastic autofocus. Then I popped them together like a puzzle. I used painter’s tape to tag together the outside of the box well enough that I could securely flip it over. I then lined each seam with medium CA glue, followed by activator spray.

Step 12

At this point, we had all of our parts ready. I made a silly error and cut the wrong size hole for the adapter, but this was easy to fix with the jigsaw. Next, I popped the winning diffuser (Diffuser #3) into place. Flipping the box over, I secured the 6″ tube to the other side of the diffuser with a hose clamp and tightened it with a Makita sub-compact drill.

Step 13

I’d intentionally cut this guy’s legs a bit long, thinking I could trim it down if I needed to. With the extra weight of the facial features and extra seams, he was just a bit too tall, so I snipped off a few inches, reinstalled the elastic, and gave him another go. And he danced perfectly!

The Final Result

We had so much fun with this project! I actually think of all the things we’ve made, this air dancer might get the most use out of anything. Even though we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to pull it off, we powered through and figured it out!

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