Hermit crabs don’t make their own shells, they must scavenge their homes. Hermit crabs are currently facing a housing shortage because the worldwide shell supply is decreasing. With fewer shells, hermit crabs are being forced to create homes in bottles, shotgun shells, and anything else they can find.
Above is a photo of a hermit crab nested in the top of a glass bottle. Every hermit crab deserves a shell to call home!
With “Project Shellter”, Makerbot is on a quest to provide more shells for hermit crabs by utilizing innovative 3D printing techniques. The MakerBot team, along with members of their community, will be creating designs for shells to be printed on their 3D printer, the Thing-O-Matic. The shell designs will be placed in a crab habitat, or “crabitat”, and tested as potential homes.
What is causing the shell shortage for hermit crabs?
“The exact cause is unclear, but the harvesting of shells by industry and sea snails occupying their shells longer. In Barbados, it's gotten so bad that desperate crabs have unearthed fossilized shells and are using them," said MakerBot representative Stef Shapira.
The goal of the Project Shellter is not to introduce printed shells into the wild. Makerbot wants to crowd-source shell designs to be used domestically by hermit crab owners and reduce harvesting of shells in the first place.
The Thing-O-Matic prints in two types of plastics: ABS, what Legos are made from, and biodegradable PLA plastic, a starch-derived polymer. There is a lot of research to conduct before discovering the most desirable shell design. Will the crabs like ABS or PLA? Will they prefer one color over another? Will they even consider making a 3D printed shell their home? Makerbot is ready to use empirical science methods and find out!
"Project Shellter" is a collaboration with Miles Lightwood, AKA TeamTeamUSA. Lightwood has also set up a crabitat in Los Angeles and updates from both L.A. and Brooklyn will be posted on the Project Shellter Facebook page.
MakerBot Industries was founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith as an open source 3D printer to democratize manufacturing. It was named one of the top 20 startups in NYC, and has been featured in The New York Times, Wired, Engadget, The Colbert Report, Make: Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, IEEE Spectrum, CNN, The Financial Times, NPR, The Economist, and more.