Jefferson Talbot, a recent graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, had an idea after watching his college roommate carefully pack up his fishbowl and fish every time he had to leave the dorms for a few days. A robotic fish, he thought, would be much easier to take care of. He thought back to a fish skeleton he had doodled in his class notes a couple of years ago, and decided to take the design a step further, as he had recently obtained a 3D printer. He 3D modeled and printed a skeletal fish structure and then went to work filling it out with muscle, fins and skin.

Talbot entered the project in the Project of the Year 2018 contest put on by Dassault Systèmes. The projects in the competition had to be completed with Dassault software, and the contest received 173 entries from 29 different countries. One Jury Prize was awarded, based on several criteria such as innovation, originality, technicality and optimal use of the software. 10 other winners were selected by Facebook users, and three brand project prizes were also awarded.

The Jury Prize this year went to Talbot for his ingenious robotic fish idea.

“There is a growing interest around the world in bringing robots and AI (artificial intelligence) into the home,” Talbot said. “Given the love of toy robot dogs in the past decades, I thought there might be interest in a fish. I figured that if I wanted a robot fish, there probably are other tech-obsessed people who would be interested in non-humanoid robots for their homes too.”

Talbot, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, spent much of his last year working on the fish, using his own 3D printer as well as the school’s Makerspace Lab. He is still working on the newest iteration of the CAD model, trying to add more lifelike features and finalize the locomotion systems so that he can file for a patent. Once he has designed a fully autonomous fish capable of swimming for days or weeks without human contact, he will scale the design down into a smaller fish that can fit into an aquarium.

“In addition to the structural aspects of the fish, I have also begun basic work on the electrical and control systems,” he said. “An assortment of touch sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, LiDAR modules, pumps, servos, motors, Arduino boards, and Raspberry Pi boards was considered and a mix of them will be implemented in future iterations of the fish.”

The potential for Talbot’s design could go far beyond simply offering a cool new pet. He envisions the design being used by wildlife researchers who need to study underwater ecosystems without disturbing marine life. The system could also be adapted into a robotic snake that could help reach people trapped under rubble after disasters, or to inspect structures too large or dangerous for humans.

Talbot would like to work in the fields of biorobotics, biomedical engineering, or bionic prosthetics. You can learn more about his robotic fish project here.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University]

 

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