Hardshell Labs Is Saving One Tortoise at a Time With Autodesk Fusion

Heather Miller Heather Miller October 4, 2023

1 min read

When it comes to combatting predatory ravens, scarecrows won’t cut it. Deep in the Mojave Desert, Hardshell Labs‘ “techno-torts” are in action to deter ravens and save desert tortoises. 

As the founder of Hardshell Labs, Tim Shields is taking a technological approach to conservation. Over the years, ravens have decimated the desert tortoise population, preying on baby and juvenile tortoises. Their shells are too soft to protect them from a pecking raven. Shields wanted to find a new—yet humane—way to keep the birds from attacking them. 

“We had this idea of, how do you make a fake tortoise?” Shields says. “And then I met Frank Guercio, who just has this incredibly absorptive mind. I provided the impetus—try to make a convincing fake baby tortoise—and he took off with that.” 

Designing the “techno-tort”

Using Autodesk Fusion, Guercio designed an imitation tortoise shell that could be 3D-printed to look like the real thing for aversive training. If a raven tries to peck one of the techno-torts, it’s sprayed with artificial grape flavoring of all things. “For whatever reason, artificial grape flavoring drives birds crazy,” Shields says. 

Guercio credits Fusion 360 with the new designs he can dream up and achieve for Hardshell Labs’ continued conservation efforts. 

“Being able to import really complex geometries like an organic shape, like a tortoise, is very difficult to do in any sort of industry program,” Guercio says. “When it comes to the tortoise specifically, there was so much legwork on the back end to get it into a position where I could then mechanically edit it as an object. Fusion 360 has been a fantastic tool.” 

“The second I became familiar with Autodesk products and really had them available to me, it really opened up the floodgates,” he continues. “We can create structures inside of the tortoise that was next to impossible about five years ago.” 

Learn more about Hardshell Labs and their techno-tort on Design & Make with Autodesk.

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