If there’s one thing that stands as a given in this life, it would be a simple fact; everything needs more cowbell.
And to drive home that critical point, a group of product designers from Cambridge Industrial Design have used 3D printing to build a tracking collar for cows which brings together the durability of plastics and the Internet of Things with the barnyard.
Created for True North Technologies, the device is capable of tracking a cow’s movements and collecting data about the bovine’s various daily activities in real-time. The Grass Hopper lets farmers discover information about their herds via mobile GSM networks, and the data is sent to a central hub for analysis.
Once that data is collected, it can be compared to various other data points to provide insight into milk yields and optimum grazing conditions. Farmers can also set up “virtual electric fences” which trigger the cowbell collars and move their cattle into pre-specified pasture areas.
It’s a bell-shaped, GPS-enabled collar containing an array of sensors that can track grazing patterns, social behavior, and even less dynamic activities such as cud chewing. The developers say the “geo-fences” can be used remotely to take over the task of manually locating the old style electric fences on which farmers once relied.
Tim Evans, the design director at Cambridge Industrial Design, says while human wearable technologies are getting all the ink, tracking cows and their activities and preferences is vital to farmers intent on managing cattle grazing.
“In creating this sensor we took our inspiration from the traditional alpine cow bell, using a rounded shape to minimize the size and maximize strength,” Evans says. “This ensures it is rugged enough to cope with being bashed against fences and feeding troughs, and simple enough for farmers to remove for cleaning and recharging.” He couldn’t help but add that, “The result mooves wearable technology forward – and the cows think it is udderly brilliant.”
The IoT cow bells were manufactured with glass-filled nylon materials and printed via Selective Laser Sintering. Evans says the 3D printing process let the design team revise the devices quickly during field trials to refine the product.
“By combining our strengths in GPS and location technology with Cambridge Industrial Design’s skills, we have been able to create an innovative, tough product that will help dairy farmers to optimize their operations,” said Patrick Halton, the managing and technology director for True North Technologies.
True North Technologies, located in Shannon, Ireland, is focused on developing technologies for agricultural use, and for the last couple of years, the company has worked with Teagasc on a number of technologies for the dairy production market such as advanced grass measurement and automatic strip fencing solutions.
Do you know of any other projects which use 3D printing to help farmers in their day-to-day work? Let us know in the 3D Printed Cowbell forum thread on 3DPB.com.