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Blow me down: Windcatcher inflation system amplifies lung power

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May 20, 2013

Blowing into the large opening of the Windcatcher valve draws in surrounding air to inflat...

Blowing into the large opening of the Windcatcher valve draws in surrounding air to inflate the Air Pad in just a few breaths

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If you go camping down in the wild woods, the chances of happening upon a conveniently-placed power outlet for blowing up your mattress with an electric air pump are pretty remote. Unless you have a hand or foot pump in your backpack, you'll have to wrap your lips around a tiny valve that likely has a history of being dragged through all sorts of unmentionable nastiness, and then spend the next long while taking deep breaths and blowing. Ryan Frayne's Windcatcher system inflates in just a few seconds with a valve that never touches your mouth.

"When you inflate all other Air Pads (or really any inflatable), all you're doing is directly transferring air from your lungs into the object you're inflating," Frayne told us. "There's no interaction between the air you're expelling and surrounding air. It takes so long and so many breaths to inflate something as large as an Air Pad, because you're lungs really don't have that much air to give. But whenever you're inflating something, you're standing in an ocean of air. All you need to do is coax the air inside."

Ryan Frayne testing an early Windcatcher prototype

The idea is that, when you blow into the gaping mouth of the Windcatcher valve, a stream of fast moving, low pressure air is created. High pressure air round about is attracted to low pressure areas and pulled inside the mattress. Frayne claims that the volume of air entering the Windcatcher system is at least 10 to 15 times greater than that leaving your lungs – which means more inflating power for less effort. Once inside, the valve prevents the air from escaping.

The 20 x 72 x 3.25 in (51 x 183 x 8 cm) Air Pad is made from 75 Denier Ripstop polyester, internally laminated with polyurethane, and when it's fully inflated, rolling up the valve and securing it in place with Velcro straps ensures a tight seal. Frayne is currently looking to support a user weight of up to 300 lb (136 kg). A conventional valve is included to adjust the level of inflation to the user's personal preference.

The very fact that the inflation system is so fast makes it a good fit for many indoor/outdoor situations where you might think twice about lugging an air bed around, including lazing in the park, an emergency sleep-over when your flight gets canceled, or camping out for concert tickets.

The fact that the inflation system is so fast makes it a good fit for many indoor/outdoor ...

The Windcatcher system includes a manual override, so you can pull out the invertible release and the air escapes much faster, and more completely, than with a conventional valve. The whole thing can be rolled up to about the size of a liter bottle of water, a portable 9 x 3.5 in (23 x 8 cm), and secured with Velcro straps (although a stuff sack is available).

Frayne has partnered with Rob Stam to bring the Windcatcher valve and Air Pad to the marketplace. They've launched on Kickstarter where the US$70 early bird specials have all gone, but you can still save $20 on the projected retail price with a standard pledge of $80. An Air Bag (an inflatable pillow that uses the same Windcatcher valve) can accompany your Air Pad for pledges of $99 or more. The campaign runs until June 13.

The pitch video below shows the Windcatcher in action.

Sources: Ryan Frayne, Kickstarter

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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12 Comments

Well done boys. Simple cheap idea which will make you very very rich.

You win the game :)

Chris Winter
20th May, 2013 @ 06:20 pm PDT

I'd have liked something that shows the science behind this. It seems to violate the law of the conservation of energy. If it was this easy, why wouldn't you just replace the mattress with another Windcatcher, or daisy-chain a few of them until you were able to propel an airplane with breath alone? I'm sceptical...

Marcus Carr
20th May, 2013 @ 06:27 pm PDT

if it sells at the same price as the conventional valved mattresses I'll buy it but I don't have enough problem with the regular valve to justify additional cost. I watch where put the mattress and use a straw to put the air in. If you breath normally while inflating things like that it is much less of a chore and doesn't take much longer. The straw can also disable the one way valve making deflation easy as well.

Slowburn
20th May, 2013 @ 08:31 pm PDT

re; Marcus Carr

The valve works the same way as the inflater in the emergency escape ramps on airliners do.

The device is called a thrust augmenter and they have been used to great effect but they require an initiating airstream much faster than optimal for the airspeed the plane is traveling at because the initiating airstream is massively slowed as it accelerates the large air mass so even under optimal conditions more than one creates more drag than additional thrust. Oddly enough the DC-8 was inadvertently built with one. The thrust reverser when half deployed behaved as a thrust augmenter and reduced the noise generated. It was standard operating procedure to fly with the thrust reverser half deployed until the turbofan engine replaced the turbojets and made them uneconomical.

Slowburn
20th May, 2013 @ 09:33 pm PDT

I would imagine that this new valve wouldn't cost anymore or add any extra weight. I'm just sick of leaving air mattresses and pool toys inflated because I hate to re-inflate them for every use. At $80 w/shipping, and no tax, that beats the prices of the nice camping mats at my REI here in Colorado.

Now, if I can only use it as a pool float too?

FallenEmperor
20th May, 2013 @ 09:42 pm PDT

Wow, this is definitely one of those, "why didn't I think of that" products. Nice work!

(But seriously, why didn't I think of that!)

Colter Cederlof
21st May, 2013 @ 12:12 am PDT

This seems like a great idea, but the price seems a little high.

I am guessing there is a flap inside the "mouth" that prevents the air from just coming back out again, but aside from that it seems simple. I could imagine that you could use the same idea with a mechanical blower for inflatable beds, to make them inflate faster or with a smaller blower. It also seems like you could make an adapter for existing air mattresses.

Michaelc
21st May, 2013 @ 07:48 am PDT

A genuine eye opener, congratulations to the inventor, I hope he makes it big!

T N Args
21st May, 2013 @ 04:33 pm PDT

I don't have any problem inflating a pad and there are enough inflation options that I don't think it's an issue. Deflating through a tiny valve, however, is a pita especially if you're in a hurry. If this really drains faster and more completely, I'm all for it.

Joe F
21st May, 2013 @ 05:09 pm PDT

Could this be the Coanda principle in action?

richardcobbs4
21st May, 2013 @ 08:40 pm PDT

Re: richardcobbs4.

Yup. It's the Coanda effect; successfully demonstrated in a Tesla turbine. (Look it up. It's pretty interesting).

That's what makes this invention a stroke of genius. All of us knew that this method is used to inflate the emergency slide in airplanes. It's also being explored to augment a windmill's efficiency. But only these two could see its potential as a goldmine in inflatable products. Hats off.

mk_sharpshooter
22nd May, 2013 @ 05:48 am PDT

Sounds much like the method we used to inflate air mattresses in the military years ago. With some new additions. Strange that this is only now making its way into consumer products

TN
24th May, 2013 @ 05:20 am PDT
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