For researchers, snaring delicate sea creatures such as invertebrates without causing any damage is a big hurdle to overcome to better study them in a more hospitable environment. Some thoughtful people turned to Japanese origami for inspiration to develop this cool 12-side trap that was 3D printed just for this purpose.
Besides being cool to look at, it also has a great name — the rotary actuated dodecahedron – AKA “RAD”. The RAD is attached to the arm of an underwater rover and triggered remotely. According to a story in The Verge, the RAD has successfully trapped small squid, octopuses, and jellyfish at a depth of 700 meters in the ocean.
David Gruber is one of the marine biologists who helped design the RAD to build a better “invert trap”. Back in the day, trawling nets were used but besides being indiscriminate on what they caught, they weren’t very good on delicate creatures. Recent advancements involved using vacuums to suck up critters but can still damage more delicate organisms.
This RAD (Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron) device is allowing scientists to capture delicate sea creatures without harming them. pic.twitter.com/Em2SZCWtSj
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) July 19, 2018
The RAD could be a truly valuable tool moving forward. Besides working at 700m, the design could easily scale in both operational depth (up to 11km) and size. Currently the RAD is operated and triggered manually. Future iterations could make it an automated trap to lure sea creatures in and have sensors to detect and trigger the release when they’re in the right position.
Although it looks cool, it wasn’t an easy design. Some of the key challenges to overcome was making sure it was strong enough to hold together, but the edged were soft enough not to damage any specimens. It also meant ensuring there were sure gaps to prevent pressure build up when rising to the surface.
However, the biggest challenge was using just one motor. This left mechanical engineers like Harvard University’s Zhi Ern Teoh, with the need to design the intricate series of linkages that connect each of RAD’s 12 panels to the central motor. Without this, the RAD wouldn’t be able to fold or unfold with a single command. The linkages needed to be both light enough to not strain the motor too much and strong enough not to snap in the field.
Right now the team is aiming just to capture creatures to study them but Gruber has more ambitious features in mind. “I view this as a platform technology that we hope will continue to evolve,” he says. “The dream is to enclose delicate deep-sea animals, take 3D imagery that includes properties like hardness, 3D-print that animal at the surface, and also have a ‘toothbrush’ tickle the organism to obtain its full genome. Then, we’d release it.”
We think that’s pretty RAD!
[via The Verge]