Impact Resistance & the Mark One

Ocean Alliance is an organization dedicated to research on “…whales and ocean life relating particularly to toxicology, behavior, bioacoustics, and genetics“. Human activity is the cause of tens of thousands of whale deaths each year. Ocean Alliance’s research will help us better understand and document what our activities are doing to the whales and their habitat, so that one day we might be able to mitigate the problem.

Last summer, they launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for Snotbot – a quadcopter Ocean Alliance could use to collect samples from the whales without harming or harassing the animals. With the help of Patrick Stewart, they successfully raised money for their Snotbot project. Check out the video with Patrick Stewart at the end of the post!

Ocean Alliance partnered with Olin College of Engineering to help design and create the Snotbot. The Snotbot’s objective is to hover over whales breaching the ocean’s surface and collect samples of the blow (or snot) exhaled from the whales’ lungs.


The Snotbot team at Olin College with Different Design Iterations of the Snotbot

One of the biggest challenges the Snotbot had was landings. The first iterations of the Snotbot were not holding up to the unpredictable and volatile landings on a boat afloat in the ocean. Despite being made of composite lay-ups, with each test, the landing gear would invariably shatter and break.


The Snotbot with Mark One Landing Gear

Olin College realized they needed landing gear that had great impact resistance but was still strong enough to land a heavy vehicle on a boat moving at sea. About that time, Olin College acquired a Mark One industrial strength 3D printer. The engineering students decided to try printing landing gear using Mark One’s ability to 3D print Kevlar reinforced parts.


Close Up of the Snotbot Landing Gear

Olin College printed the landing gear in less than a day for a material cost of $34.79. The question is. Did it work? Read the full Snotbot case study to find out! Or watch the video below: