Bionics: Carapace in Yo' Face
All of these animals have hard outer shells for one major reason. Sure, they're nice for displaying colors, or holding out eye-stalks. But, like products, insects, arthropods, and other hard-shell users don't have internal skeletons. Instead, they attach muscles to these outer shells, kind of like inside-out bones.
Lets begin with that old favorite of exoskeleton dwellers, the crab. There are bazzillions (to use a technical term) of crab species all over the world, in habitats ranging from land, to tidepools, to the very bottom of the ocean. Take a look at this survey of some of the most extreme:
Coconut crabs -- yes, actually climb coconut palms and punch holes in the coconuts to eat them! They are found throughout the western pacific islands, and can lift up to 28Kg.
Fiddler Crabs -- Found along the beaches of Eastern North America, these crabs use their one huge claw as a weapon for territorial jousting. While early American explorers thought the crabs looked like fiddlers, maybe fencing crabs would be a better analogy.
Morton Bay Bugs -- besides being tasty, these relatives of crayfish and lobster are an odd looking crustacean from bays around Australia. They look like musclemen with huge upper bodies.
After you look through crustaceans for a while, it's time to move on to insects. While crabs and lobster species are numerous, insects totally take the cake. We recommend the unbelievably thorough BugGuide.net. Seriously, just take a browse through it; there must be tens of thousands of insect images, all classified taxonomically. For some "greatest carapace hits" check out these fine fellas:
Tiger Beetles -- Iridescent green. Need we say more? Oh yeah, they're the fastest running beetle in North America (like faster than you can run) and they are mad carnivorous.
Scarab beetles -- they've got all the best headgear/horn action. And they ate all those guys in "The Mummy". If only they had eaten Brendan Frasier. Oh well.
Saddleback caterpillar -- Not really hard skinned, but totally covered in spines. Why does this guy remind us of a couch as yet unmade by Karim Rashid?
Or, for even closer views, check out these scanning electron micrographs of parasitic insects. The overlapping scales on these guys are amazing.
So what does all this mean for designers? Good question. We're of the opinion that beautiful forms are beautiful forms, so applying these concepts of insect bodies to the next generation of electronic equipment seems obvious enough. But just in case you need convincing, check out the work of Pablo Castillo.
These amazing insects are made of technology, not the other way around. Look closely and you can see windshield wipers, TVs, and vacuum cleaners.
Pablo's on the right track. Look closely, and everything becomes inspiration for your next design.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team