AMS Spring 2023

LightBug Solar Powered GPS Tracker with 3D Printed Case Takes Flight on Kickstarter

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When it comes to getting a product to market, the cost of tooling for injection molded plastic parts can be a real setback. 3D printing has been especially useful to helping inventors getting their devices from the drawing board to functional prototypes and sometimes even final products. The advent of crowdfunding has also enabled all sorts of unique and innovative products find the initial investment they so desperately need. One product that might not have seen the light of day without both 3D printing and Kickstarter is the LightBug, and hopefully they will be able to meet their funding goals.

parts

The guts

The LightBug is the brainchild of UK-based father and son team, David and Chris Guest. They have been designing and manufacturing GPS tracking devices since 2006. The LightBug is a tiny GPS tag that can be used for everything from fitness tracking to taking care of Alzheimer’s patients. It is solar powered and smaller than a half pack of chewing gum.

They expect that due to its small size, solar charging, and ease of use it will appeal to parents, pet lovers, fitness enthusiasts, and the plain forgetful. LightBug prototypes are 3D printed and through their recently launched Kickstarter they are looking for funding the expensive tooling process required for injection molding.

3D printed case.

LightBug 3D printed case

The LightBug is intuitive and easy to use. Users simply attach LightBug to whatever they need to track and use the phone app to both configure alerts and locate it. Alerts can be set up for a wide range of things, such as proximity to the user’s phone. Proximity alerts detect if the device is no longer nearby (using Bluetooth) and will trigger automatic position updates. Alternatively, the user can draw areas on a map that are either “safe zones” or “danger zones” and receive notifications when boundaries are crossed. Other notification triggers include time of day, detection of falls, and speed.

LightBug knows where it is thanks to GPS satellites, with an accuracy of 50cm (1.6ft). It sends its location over the mobile phone network to the app and works anywhere in the world. The battery never needs charging as it has two tiny solar panels capable of charging the built-in battery, even indoors.dimensions

“We’ve squashed a mobile phone, low energy Bluetooth chip and high quality GPS antenna into a package smaller than most car key fobs,” says Chris. “David and I have been working on trackers for 8 years now, and we’re proud to present our best work yet: a device significantly smaller and more feature packed than anything out there already.”

dogsThe LightBug team is looking to raise £50,000 (about $77,782 USD) via Kickstarter to produce the first batch of devices. As of the time of this writing, they had already sold out their Super Early Bird and Early Bird rewards–and has already raised $36,154. Among the current available reward tiers, backers can get a standard LightBug with a 1 year data plan for £87 ($135), and a LightBug Plus (which adds Bluetooth) with 2 years of data for £97 ($151). The campaign runs through September 15th.

I think this a device that could potentially save lives and will certainly give more piece of mind to parents and caregivers.

Will you be backing the LightBug campaign? Join the conversation in the 3D Printed LightBug Device forum thread at 3DPB.com. Check out more images from the company showing some uses and specs for the LightBug:

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app explanation

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