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Propulsion System for Robotic Marine Vehicles Wins Cool Idea! Award


The Thruster-100 propulsion system, designed by BlueRobotics, is a low-cost motor and propeller unit that users can affix to remotely operated underwater vehicles and small surface vessels for aquatic exploration. A plastic framework is integrated with a brushless electric motor to enable the thruster to operate continuously for months at a time and resist the corrosive effects of ocean saltwater.
Photo: Business Wire

Proto Labs recognizes BlueRobotics' Thruster-100 system for innovation in marine mobility

MAPLE PLAIN, Minn.—Proto Labs recently presented a Cool Idea! Award to the team at BlueRobotics for their development work on the Thruster-100 propulsion system for robotic marine vehicles.

BlueRobotics designed the compact Thruster-100 as a low-cost motor and propeller unit that users can affix to remotely operated underwater vehicles and small surface vessels for aquatic exploration. A plastic framework is integrated with a brushless electric motor to enable the thruster to operate continuously for months at a time, navigate into deep waters, and resist the corrosive nature of ocean saltwater.

By drastically reducing the hardware expense typically associated with buying a thruster, the company hopes to provide a more accessible entry point for hobbyists, educators, students, and professionals. "There's a developing community of people online who are doing marine robotics projects for fun and ecological reasons, and they're all having the same problem—they don't have an affordable underwater thruster," said engineer and BlueRobotics Co-founder, Rustom Jehangir, in a press release.

Applications for marine robotics vary from studying ocean currents and temperatures, to photographing reefs and sea creatures, to surveying underwater wreckage. With the Thruster-100, the goal is to inexpensively power more exploration like that. "We hope the thruster will serve as a foundation for which other people can build things," explains Joe Spadola, co-founder at BlueRobotics.

As part of the Cool Idea! Award grant from Proto Labs, the company will receive a range of thermoplastic injection-molded parts, including nose, propeller, nozzle, and tail cone components, along with mounting brackets. BlueRobotics plans to make its Thruster-100 available to customers later this year.

"While hardware, software, and information have become readily available to the rapidly expanding hobbyist robotic market, ocean exploration within that market has been limited in part by the cost and design of the thruster component," said Proto Labs Founder and Chairman, Larry Lukis, in a statement. "BlueRobotics has designed a product that will enable not only the hobbyist market, but the academic and commercial markets, to push the current limits of marine robotics."

Launched in 2011, the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award (www.protolabs.com/coolidea) gives a total of $250,000 in services each year to entrepreneurs developing new products in the United States and Europe. Unlike other product awards that recognize products after they're in mass production and on store shelves, the Cool Idea! Award is meant to help innovative ideas come to life.

This technical information has been contributed by
Proto Labs

Click here to find suppliers

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