Measuring the forces animals produce while burrowing presents a difficult challenge. To address this challenge, I used 3D CAD design software (Solidworks, Sketchup) to create a unique force-sensitive tunnel-tube. Using a Makerbot replicator (left), I 3D printed the tunnel-tube parts in ABS plastic. Through many iterations (center), I developed the design ultimately used for in-vivo biomechanics, the Tunnel-tube 3.0.
The Tunnel-Tube 3.0 (far right) is a simplified version of my previous designs with two tubes arranged in series. The tube through which the animal first enters is empty and aligned with a second, substrate-filled tube. The substrate-filled tubes are uniformly packed and can be exchanged between trials, allowing for a more consistent substrate over time. The entry tube is mounted on a nano17 six-axis load cell which measures the forces produced during burrowing.