Architects have been obsessed with inflatables for years, using them to build strong, light structures that are surprisingly durable. When it comes to product design, pneumatics haven’t quite taken off in the same way–air mattresses and blow-up dolls aside. But for its newest product, the Swiss bag manufacturer Freitag is using air as a problem-solving design detail. The Zippelin, which launched today on Kickstarter, is a suitcase with a pneumatic frame that’s inflated with a bike pump and rolls flat for storage.
Traditional suitcases include a plastic or steel frame to protect the contents and make it easier to move. But when Freitag began designing its own luggage, the designers realized that outfitting a suitcase with both a traditional frame and Freitag’s trademark material–recycled truck tarps–would make the bag too heavy and cumbersome.
So Nicola Stäubli, a product developer at Freitag, hatched an idea: make the frame out of a much lighter material–air.
“As a former architect, I’m familiar with air-supported structures,” he tells Co.Design by email. “One of them being Tensairity–a lightweight structural concept that uses low-pressure air to stabilize compression against buckling. It is being used not only in architecture but in the outdoor sector as well. There are tents that use pressurized beams to replace the metal poles for lower weight and compact pack size.”
Using these insights from pneumatic structures, Stäubli designed an inflatable luggage frame made from bicycle inner tubes. It takes less than a minute to pump up the bag from flat to inflated using a standard bicycle pump. The bag, which is fitted with wheels and handles, has an 85-liter capacity (or about 22.5 gallons, so you’ll have to check this piece of luggage) and weighs about eight pounds.
When it’s inflated, its dimensions are 16″x 33″x 10″, but when you’re done traveling and need to store it, it rolls up into a compact 16.5″ x 8″ x 8″ bundle. That’s about as much space as a large shoe box. While it doesn’t completely vanish into thin air, it comes pretty close–a feature that apartment-dwelling frequent flyers will surely appreciate. Shipping is expected in April 2018, and retail price is expected to be around $620, but early Kickstarter backers can get it for about $420.