Naturebytes

CONNECTING WITH NATURE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

 

When an ingenious camera kit, designed to get close to nesting birds, was adopted by a national educational project, the manufacturing deadline suddenly became urgent. Fortunately, Proto Labs was ready to help turn the prototypes into products.

The Naturebytes Nestbox camera kit enables amateur wildlife watchers monitor, film and photograph nesting birds in their garden, and live-stream their videos. It was designed by Jon Fidler, chief designer and co-founder of Naturebytes, and is just one of the ways the company is helping people use technology to more closely connect with the natural world.

Recently the Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences approached Naturebytes to create the Nestbox as part of Xperibird, a Google-funded national educational project in Belgium. This project aims to reach 300-500 new schools, and up to 30,000 children, each year for the next three years. So the pressure was on to get 500 kits available as soon as possible.

 Time and cost under control

Jon was confident that Naturebytes could fine-tune the design and create the prototypes in-house. However, to manufacture the casing to house the electronics for the kit, he needed to find a fast, reliable injection-moulding service. He had heard of Proto Labs while working as a lecturer in Product Design and Interaction at Ravensbourne, a leading London-based university specialising in design and media. Confident that Proto Labs could deal with tight turn-around times, he decided to use their online quoting system.

“Right from the start, I could tell we were going to move fast,” explains Jon. “We could see the tooling and manufacturing costs virtually straight away, along with aspects of the product design that needed tweaking. We finalised the design quickly, and then Proto Labs produced 500 cases within two weeks – which is exactly what we needed.”

Another factor behind Jon’s decision to work with Proto Labs was the UK-based manufacturing facilities: “We’ve had disappointing experiences in the past when ordering from overseas suppliers. Due to the distances involved, we’ve found delivery timings can be unreliable—plus, if there’s a problem with the product, it’s difficult to resolve. With Proto Labs, we got exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it. And manufacturing abroad isn’t necessarily cheaper; our casings were very cost-effective for a relatively low run.”

Next steps for Naturebytes

The Xperibird project is just the start for the Naturebytes Nestbox. More orders are already being received, and Jon and his team hope to go for a full commercial launch in the near future. For the Naturebytes team, it’s all part of a mission to build a community that provides electronic and educational resources for people of all ages, helping nature and develop skills in technology, computing and natural sciences.

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