Discerning hermit crabs choose 3D printed shells

Whether done for the art of it or just because we can now, innovative new 3D printed items are flourishing. Now even hermit crabs getting in on the craze courtesy of some day-glow 3D printed shells.

Due to a shortage of natural shells in the wild for hermit crabs, many of the shy and retiring little creatures are dying. To help the crabs, Project Shellter was born to help create new, environmentally friendly homes realistic enough for the crabs to want to move in. That's where the 3D printed shells come in.

MakerBot Industries, the maker of the Thing-O-Matic 3D printer, has partnered with TeamTeamUSA to create Project Shellter. The goal of the project has been to create a printing material that would degrade in the ocean as the crabs grew out of them and moved on. They also needed to create shells that had the right characteristics for the crabs to adopt them.

The task in front of Project Shellter wasn't easy. Dr. Katherine Bulinski, a biological researcher with experience studying the hermit crab worked with the team. Shells have to be just the right fit — too big and the crabs won't feel secure and may not be able to carry the shell around. Too small and the crab won't fit.

The triumph of scientific crowdsourcing prevailed as the MakerBot community embraced the project and helped with the 3D modeling of the shells to get viable options for testing. To date, two of the printed shells have been adopted by the pet crabs belonging to the research team — a huge step for the Project.

The work continues however, and Project Shellter is still looking for anyone with a 3D printer or with experience in 3D modeling. The team is also looking for people who wish to volunteer their pet crabs for the shell adoption testing.

The results seem to be a win all around. Hermit crabs get safe new homes and 3D printers get a work out with some real world applications. Isn't it great when a plan comes together?

Project Shellter, via LaughingSquid, Geek.com

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