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Project Shellter developing 3D printed shells for pet hermit crabs

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October 25, 2011

Artist Miles Lightwood is the leader of Project Shellter, a crowd-sourced effort to design...

Artist Miles Lightwood is the leader of Project Shellter, a crowd-sourced effort to design 3D printed shells for use in the pet hermit crab industry (Photo: MakerBot Industries)

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If you've ever bought a pet hermit crab, then you may remember also having to buy several sea shells with it. This is because the crabs don't have shells of their own, and instead have to find empty shells from other creatures and use those. As a hermit crab grows, it'll need to upsize to larger shells, hence the need to supply it with multiple choices. Unfortunately, every empty shell gathered for the pet trade is one less for the wild hermit crabs to move into. In places where the beaches have been picked clean, the crabs have reportedly resorted to using things such as bottles and shotgun shells. That's where Miles Lightwood's Project Shellter comes in - he's hoping to design 3D printed shells for use in the pet industry, and is seeking ideas from interested artists and designers.

Lightwood is an artist in residence at MakerBot Industries, which is known for its Thing-o-Matic home 3D printer kit. An increasing number of hobbyists are buying the kits, to the point that an online community of users has been established, known as Thingiverse.

One of Miles Lightwood's 3D printed shells, designed for use by pet hermit crabs (Photo: M...

While Miles has already designed some faux snail shells of his own, he's interested in seeing what other 3D printing enthusiasts can come up with. To that end, he is inviting Thingiverse members to upload their designs, so that MakerBot personnel can print them out and test them on some real live pet crabs - one "crabitat" is located in the company's Brooklyn headquarters, while Lightwood is setting up a second one in Los Angeles.

He is interested in seeing if the crustaceans have any preference for specific materials, shapes, or colors, or if they will even use artificial shells at all. Given that the crabs are already making use of shotgun shells, chances are that fake sea shells should be an easy sell.

Source: Popular Science

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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12 Comments

They need to be smooth on the inside.

Mr Stiffy
25th October, 2011 @ 06:26 pm PDT

I can't wait until hermit crab conventions have 'The stupidest looking shell contests'.

Slowburn
25th October, 2011 @ 08:03 pm PDT

Sammy shuns shotguns shells in search of synthetic sea shell substitutes? seriously?

christopher
25th October, 2011 @ 08:10 pm PDT

Your making shells for hermit crabs out of plastic... AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Jason Daiginjo
25th October, 2011 @ 08:30 pm PDT

More exploitation of sentient creatures :(

Instead of encouraging the cruel and speciesist "pet" industry, PLEASE JUST LEAVE THE CRABS IN THE WILD WHERE THEY BELONG!

Katia Luto
26th October, 2011 @ 05:00 am PDT

I think it's a great idea if it works! There's many great things you can do with 3Dprinting! @GROWit3D

Karissa Campbell
26th October, 2011 @ 08:47 am PDT

1. Katia Luto - out on the wild, hermit crabs don't have popcorn, and they love popcorn. They also love not being eaten, which also happens a lot more in the wild.

2. Forget these printed shells - now I want a hermit crab with a shotgun shell!

3. I'd also like to know what beaches the crabs with shotgun shells are found on, as I would like to stay far away from those beaches.

alcalde
26th October, 2011 @ 10:51 am PDT

Instead of using this technology for the pet industry, scatter the printed shells in the areas that the wild crabs can use them. Then they won't have to resort to the shotgun shells or bottles.

And, to alcalde, re. your point #3, the shotgun shells in question are the already spent ones that are empty. The crabs won't shoot at you ;-)

Stuart M Anderson
26th October, 2011 @ 02:29 pm PDT

I think some made in the shape of little Air Stream travel trailers would be a sell to the pet industry.

Ed Reed
26th October, 2011 @ 04:03 pm PDT

"Sammy shuns shotguns shells in search of synthetic sea shell substitutes? seriously?"

I can't even say that once at normal speed, let alone say it fast five times. WIN!

Gregg Eshelman
26th October, 2011 @ 10:12 pm PDT

"Instead of using this technology for the pet industry, scatter the printed shells in the areas that the wild crabs can use them. Then they won't have to resort to the shotgun shells or bottles."

Have you heard how much of grinded plastic our oceans have (and how much marine life it kills)?

Renārs Grebežs
27th October, 2011 @ 01:43 am PDT

I think alcalde is worried about WHY there are so many (?) shotgun shells on the beaches. Who shot what, when and why springs to mind...

I'd love a 3D printer but think I'd get bored after a time. Wonder if we could set up a business instead?

agulesin
13th January, 2012 @ 04:03 am PST
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