3D printer solves feral pig tracking problem
Researcher Shandala Loving, 3D Printing Engineer Matthew Harbidge and Metal Trades Apprentice Jack Monigatti have come up with a cost-effective way to mount a GPS tracker on feral pigs
By Jon Taylor, Charles Darwin University
June 3, 2019
Feral pig researcher, Shandala Loving had a problem.
Her research subjects, often large and destructive, have the potential of busting the mountings holding the $500 GPS tracker Shandala is using to monitor their movements.
Annoyingly, the mountings could either be purchased commercially at great expense or laboriously handmade. The handmade version couldn’t withstand the rigours of a Top End feral pig and the bought ones would eat too much of her project’s budget, at the cost of $5000 per complete unit.
She needed to construct something that was cost-effective but able to withstand being smashed on trees by a 100kg feral pig.
The solution to the problem turned out to be closer than she expected.
Shandala had already enlisted the help of Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA), a joint initiative between CDU and SPEE3D that uses a world-first 3D metal printing technology, to assist with the production of a plastic mount for the GPS trackers when another solution was identified.
AMA 3D Printing Engineer, Matthew Harbidge designed an aluminium mounting for the tracker that would be vastly stronger and could be produced in CDU’s 3D printer.
“One of the real advantages of the 3D printing technology we are pioneering is the ability to design and produce one-off fabrications in a cost-effective and rapid way,” he said.
“Traditional metal fabrication techniques, involving moulds and casting, just aren’t compatible with producing the type of innovative turn-key solutions needed to solve Shandala’s problem.”
To make production as cost-effective as possible, Mr Harbidge printed on both sides of an aluminium plate to save materials and after 90 minutes of printing and machining by CDU Metal Trades Apprentice Jack Monigatti a solid mounting was produced.
“The 3D printing technology developed by Territorian company SPEE3D, coupled with their ground-breaking design software, have really opened so many new applications for the manufacturing of metal parts,” Mr Harbidge said.
“The technology can produce parts that are at least as strong as traditional manufacturing processes and vastly more cost-effective for small production runs or niche solutions such as this case.”
Shandala has fabricated the collar to attach the mount to the pig; six plastic and six metal mounts will soon be in the field monitoring the movements of feral pigs.
“I’m tracking the movements of feral pigs to understand their impact on our wetlands, which are important and delicate ecosystems. To be able to do this, it’s vital we come up with a way of keeping a GPS tracker attached to a pig,” Shandala said.
“We now have something that is tough and can withstand the environment it has to operate in.”
AMA Director, Dr Rebecca Murray said the project was an example of the innovation that could be achieved through collaboration.
“An environmental science researcher, a Mechanical Engineer, and a metal trades apprentice have worked together under one roof to devise an innovative solution for a very specific and unique problem,” Dr Murray said.
“The 3D printing technology has enabled a creative solution, but it also shows the technology is not the solution in itself. It needs knowledge, creativity, collaboration and practical skills to realise its full potential,” Dr Murray said.
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