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Thruster-100, Designed By BlueRobotics, Named Cool Idea! Award Recipient. The Device Can Be Used For Aquatic Exploration. (Photo: BlueRobotics)

Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) has presented a Cool Idea! Award to the team at BlueRobotics for their development work on the Thruster-100 propulsion system for robotic marine vehicles.

Thruster-100, designed by BlueRobotics, named Cool Idea! Award recipient. The device can be used for ...

Thruster-100, designed by BlueRobotics, named Cool Idea! Award recipient. The device can be used for aquatic exploration. (Photo: BlueRobotics)

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 integrated with a brushless electric motor enables 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,” says engineer and BlueRobotics co-founder, Rustom Jehangir.

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.

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