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The 3D Three: Hermit Homes, Fire-fighting Drones, and a DIY BB-8

A rapid round-up of all the news that's fit to 3D print. This month's topics include an artist who creates hermit crab shells, a UAV prototype resistant to fire, and a Star Wars superfan who shows how to make a fully operational BB-8.
A rapid round-up of all the news that's fit to 3D print. This month's topics include an artist who creates hermit crab shells, a UAV prototype resistant to fire, and a Star Wars superfan who shows how to make a fully operational BB-8.

Shell Game

 source: aki-inomata.com

Japanese artist Aki Inomata has combined 3D-printing and hermit crabs to make a statement on immigration and identity. The project, "Why Not Hand Over a 'Shelter' to Hermit Crabs,” began in 2009, and provides translucent shells, modeled on Parisian or Tokyo apartment buildings, to the nomadic crustaceans.

Inomata first makes a CT scan of the hermit crabs’ shells, then prototypes the new real estate on a 3D-printer. The crabs soon move into their opulent new listing, which the 32-year-old artist hopes shows the “self-adaptation of humans, whether it be in acquiring a new nationality, immigrating, or relocating,” she writes on her website. “In this project I wanted to explore whether we really can choose the place or country where we live.”

Eye in the Sky

Future fire fighters may want to practice their video game skills in their downtime, as aerial drones may soon become as trusty a tool in their arsenal as fire ax or hot spot detector. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have the potential to spot people stuck in a forest fire, and also to send thermal imaging to firefighters who can use that information to plan an attack.

 source: CSIRO

The issues of battery life and durability, two major reasons you wouldn’t want to send a pricey drone into an inferno, have potentially been overcome by engineering students at Melbourne University in Australia. The project needed to make a UAV for the Victorian Metropolitan and Country Fire Brigades (MCFB) durable enough to hover above extreme heat and send thermal images in real time.

The five mechanical, and two mechatronic opted for a six-armed airfoil design to reduce drag by 60%, and a 3D-printed titanium body to keep it lightweight and able to withstand extreme temperatures. The changes have also increased battery life to 45 minutes, from 20 to 30 min. average drone time. That extra time could be the difference between life and death for people caught in a conflagration.

The unmanned aerial vehicle’s frame was made at CSIRO’s Lab 22 using a Concept Laser M2 metal 3D printer. All the 3D-printed parts can be made in about two days, so damaged parts can easily be replaced.

The engineers won an Autodesk CAD prize and a Wade Institute Entrepreneurship Prize for the project.

 

Droid Protocol

By now, the newest droid in the Star Wars universe needs no introduction. You’ve probably seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice already and are contemplating how to get your own BB-8 astromech droid.

James Bruton got to work on his immediately after the first trailer hit, using a LulzBot TAZ 3D-printerand three seconds of footage to create a functional, full-sized version of the ball droid, magnetic head and all. Bruton, who has previously made a magnificent Hulkbuster suit from Avengers: Age of Ultron, has already released video detailing his improvement efforts for version 2.

For V2, he 3D-printed a hubless wheel, with .5-m diameter comprised of 16 ABS pieces, held together. Motor windscreen wiper motor. Wheels spaced around to spin outer shell. Two other motors spin to turn BB-8 forward or backwards.

Bruton explains that the internal wheel allows the shell to be hollow, making the battery, gyros and motors much more accessible. It also provides space for accessories. Maybe now that he has seen the movie, he can add a retractable welding torch for BB-8 to give you a thumbs up.

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