Planet Earth

Big-Hearted Maker-Folk Rush to the Aid of Homeless Hermit Crabs

DiscoblogBy Veronique GreenwoodOct 25, 2011 3:42 PM

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So you finally got that 3D printer. It was pricey, but now you can fabricate anything you want! After making a few dozen hamster food dishes

, a model of your own head

, and as many toilet part replacements

as you will ever (God willing) need, you're feeling at loose ends. You need a cause to print for. That cause, provided by Project Shellter at Makerbot

, is wee little hermit crabs, who are, in turns out, suffering from a shell shortage. Wild crabs "are being forced to stick their butts into bottles, shotgun shells, and anything else they can find," runs the manifesto-cum-blog post

kicking off the project. "This is not acceptable." 3D printing aficionados are instructed to post their designs for crab shells here

. The Makerbot people will see what designs and materials their pet hermit crabs are most drawn to. The idea, apparently, is to make shells that can be provided to captive crabs, not to fill the oceans with 3D-printed kipple

in an attempt to alleviate the woes of their wild brethren (that, actually, was the quasi-serious goal of the last project we heard about that used rapid prototyping to make hermit crab shells

). But already commenters on that original post have pointed out a number of things would-be crab-saviors might want to keep in mind. Hermit crabs eat fragments of their shells, so the usual plastics extruded by 3D printers may not be a good fit. And moreover, the harvest of homes for captive hermit crabs is probably not the primary cause of the wild crab's shell shortage. Still, if people can figure out a way to mimic the natural formation of shells

with 3D printers, more power to 'em. Our minds were already blown when makers printed bones---albeit just for an art project---with actual ground-up bone.

Image courtesy of meddygarnet / flickr

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