‘Pneumatics (Greek: πνευματικός which means "breath") is a branch of physics applied to technology that makes use of gas or pressurized air.’
Having never worked using this sort of system before I am excited to learn as the project evolves. The idea for the prototype is to construct a small pneumatic system controlled via solenoid valves (valves controlled electronically) to allow compressed air to enter and exit the balloon accordingly, monitoring the pressure using a gauge to keep the balloon from bursting. This system ideally is to be replicated on a much larger scale for the final installation. In order to inflate the balloon above the ground it is necessary to construct a small wooden maquette to act as leverage for the balloon. This will make it easier to attach any tubes and fittings and reduce the risk of bursting due to contact with the floor or other environments. It will also act as a very small version of the final inflation hanging from the rig in the foyer for the exhibition in December.
The first week of experimentation consisted of calculating the correct parts that will be needed to create the system. This became a complex procedure as each part would have to be ordered individually and must fit together with the correct gauges and threads. Originally we discussed building the system using 1/8’’ gauge for all the valves, but after extensive research it appeared that 1/4’’ valves and fittings are easier to come by. When working out the sizes that will fit together, careful consideration has been taken as tubing is measured in ‘mm’ and valves / gauges are measured in inches.
The second week, alongside ordering the necessary parts and researching pneumatic systems for the build, it has been necessary for me to begin to work with coding, particularly using Processing and Arduino. Attending Radames’ Hack Nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays have acted as a perfect starting point to learn such a complex language. Because the installation intends to use an Arduino at the heart of the control system it is imperative that I actively engage and feel comfortable using this software.
During the week, you can find Ant in FACTLab, Gallery 2 if you'd like to find out more about the project.