Makerbot Industries launched Project Shellter on Oct. 18, 2011. According to Makerbot, the intention of Project Shellter is to save hermit crabs by designing and producing artificial shells for them. Makerbot Industries, who sells DIY 3D printers, wants to leverage their community and network of 3D printer users to provide the species human-made houses.

Miles Lightwood from AKA TeamTeamUSA, is leading the projects. His ambition is to provide 3D printed shells for hermit crabs the world over. 

According to Bre Pettis, founder of Makerbot: 

We’ve set up a crab habitat, a acrabitat, here at the Botcave in Brooklyn and Miles is setting up a crabitat in Los Angeles. We need help from the community to design shells so we can print them out and see if the hermit crabs like them. Can you design a shell that hermit crabs will like? We’ll print them out here at the botcave, put them in the crabitats and see which designs the hermit crabs will move into. Will they like ABS or PLA? Will they prefer one color over another? Will they even consider a 3D printed shell? We won’t know until we use empirical science and test it out. This is a new frontier of crowdsourced science. 

Source: Makerbot

Well, I guess I am not totally agree with such an idea. It is certainly good for marketing, however at this stage, most of the materials a 3D printer uses are plastics. Polylactic acid (PLA), is more environmental friendly, as some people say, corn plastic is “biodegradable.” But in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make that happen. And recycling facilities shall also have problems with PLA. In our daily life soda bottles, milk jugs are all made of plastics, but that is PET not PLA. If you mix PLA and PET about it is just like mix oil and water, recyclers consider PLA a contaminant. They use different ways to dispose of PET and PLA. So the recyclers have to pay to sort it out and pay again to dispose of it. 

 I can't image so big amount of plastic stuff being putting in the ocean is an environment friendly idea. As we all know, All hermit crabs keeps looking for new shells to fit them as they grow. For that reason, a hermit crab needs many shells in various sizes, besides that, different kinds of hermit crabs prefer other kinds of shells. Ecuadorians, for example, like shells with wide, oval openings. So, even the hermit crabs like the man-made houses, who is going to take care the environment when hermit crabs abandon the shells?

We want to save hermit crabs and we also want to protect our earth. Maybe you, the readers, have any better ideas or suggestions? New materials? Better 3D printing technology? 


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