Feb 21, 2016 | By Benedict

British pest control company Insect Research Systems Ltd. has developed a 3D printed detection monitor able to detect bodily gas emissions from bed bugs. The 3D printed device, developed at the Campus Technology Hub (CTH) in Cheshire, UK, utilizes technology developed for ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft.

Despite their relative harmlessness, bed bugs remain one of the most notorious and unpleasant household pests. Once the tiny creatures decide to put up camp in your home, it can take weeks or even months to get rid of them—and there’s always a good chance they’ll return. According to recent reports, the pesky parasites are increasing in number throughout the UK, which has prompted pest control companies to develop new and innovative ways to catch them.

One of those companies, Insect Research Systems, has found its pest-hunting inspiration in an unlikely place: The Rosetta spacecraft, built and launched by the European Space Agency in 2014. Contrary to what you were thinking, the British pest control firm hasn’t decided to launch all bed bugs into outer space, but has instead repurposed an important component of the Rosetta to help detect the unpleasant creatures.

Rosetta, the first spacecraft to successfully land on a comet, was equipped with a shoebox-sized gas analyzer known as “Ptolemy”. Developed by Philae, a UK-based mini laboratory, Ptolemy was deployed to investigate comet surface and subsurface using gas chromatography / mass spectrometry (GCMS) techniques. Technology within the device has now been used by Insect Research Systems to detect gases of a different kind—those given off by bed bugs during intercourse.

The handheld bed-dug detector, named “APOLLO”, uses the Ptolemy technology to detect gases secreted by the parasites during sex and communication, and was built using 3D printing technology at the Campus Technology Hub (CTH) at Sci-Tech Daresbury. The APOLLO detector will enable the hospitality industry to monitor for the presence of bed bug infestations in near real-time. The CTH, where the device was developed, provides startups and small businesses with access to over £2m’s worth of engineering equipment, including additive manufacturing technology.

“Thanks to the latest 3D printing capabilities, excellent design input, and technical support available at the Campus Technology Hub, we have been able to optimize the design of our prototype and now have a product that we can demonstrate to future investors,” said Taff Morgan, Insect Research Systems chief technical officer and co-founder. “This is extremely valuable to us in that we are developing our prototype significantly quicker and more cost effectively than through traditional routes.”

Michael Norris, head of business incubation at the Science And Technology Facilities Council (STFC), added: “The Campus Technology Hub has one purpose, to provide companies with affordable access to the best skills and facilities in engineering research and development so that they can solve their technology challenges to better compete on a national and international level.

“Helping entrepreneurs, SMEs and more established businesses turn their brilliant ideas into reality is a key driver for STFC, and as part of this we’ll also provide the necessary upskilling for staff and researchers who come to the CTH, joining the thriving innovation community we have here at Daresbury.”

3D printing vs. bedbugs: Who will come out victorious? As always, our money is on 3D printing. Should the APOLLO device prove successful, the hospitality industry could soon have an essential piece of kit on its hands.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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