Archive for October 18th, 2011

3D Printers Featured on The Street!

The Street recently posted a story entitled “How 3-D Printing Changes Everything,” featuring an interview with MakerBot’s Bre Pettis.  Check it out!

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Project Shellter: Can the MakerBot Community Save Hermit Crabs?

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There seems to be a some misunderstandings about the project. Here are some clarifications:

  • The final shell material has yet to be determined; plastic is being used for prototypes
  • No printed shells have been distributed in the wild
  • The goal is to create a printable hermit crab shell for domestic use thus reducing harvesting of natural shells


Hermit crabs don’t make their own shells. They scavenge their homes. And now, hermit crabs are facing a housing shortage as the worldwide shell supply is decreasing. With a shell shortage, hermit crabs around the world are being forced to stick their butts into bottles, shotgun shells, and anything else they can find. This is not acceptable. As a community, we can reach out to this vulnerable species and offer our digital design skills and 3D printing capabilities and give hermit crabs another option: 3D printed shells.

Miles Lightwood, AKA TeamTeamUSA, is doing exactly that as an artist in residence here at MakerBot. His big project is Project Shellter, to provide 3D printed shells for hermit crabs the world over. We are inviting all MakerBot Operators and digital designers on Thingiverse to design shells and participate in SCIENCE!

We’ve set up a crab habitat, a crabitat, 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. If you participate in the project, use the hashtag #SHELLTER on twitter so that we can all track what’s going on. You can follow Project Shellter on Facebook too!

This is a new frontier of crowdsourced science. Please design shells that you think a hermit crab would like and upload them to thingiverse and tag them with “SHELLTER.” Miles will be posting a summary of his research on design parameters for hermit crab shells next. If you design them, together we’ll do science and find a way to solve the hermit crab housing problem.

Got feedback or ideas? Drop a note in the comments.

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85mm Hobby Clamp by RotoScan


Imagine this: you’re working on a hobby project at home…working on, say adding binding to a mandolin or something like this.  Suddenly, you realize you’re almost out of clamps (the horror!)

Now imagine this: instead of driving down to the Hobby Hut or the McHardware and plunking down another $20 for that one extra clamp you need, what if you just printed one?  And then, you realize if you time the job right, that clamp would be ready just in time?

“It can’t be done,” you say.  And to this, I answer: not so.  It can be done.  NOW.

In fact, Thingiverse’s own RotoScan has already made this possible. That’s right, folks: the future is already here.  Again.

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Printable Polargraphs and Drawing Machines

Polargraphs are basically really cool drawing robots that have been designed by Sandy Noble, a programmer and artist.  If you’ve never seen one in action, now’s your chance. 1  Imagine a slow spider crawling around a wall and drawing at the same time.  A microcontroller operates two motors which reel in and out a line which is attached to a pen.  As the pen swings back and forth, it draws in a precise pattern to draw whatever you’ve programmed it to draw.  While very slow, it can cover a really huge drawing area that is pretty much only limited by the amount of string you set it up with and the ink reservoir of your chosen pen.

Thingiverse citizen and prolific printer John Abella recently created a printable gondola to hold the Polargraph’s drawing pen.  The Polargraph requires a bunch of stock off-the-shelf parts and some custom lasercut acrylic and wood bits.  By using a 3D printer to create these assemblies, you’re reducing the need for custom lasercut parts, fasteners, and the assembly time that would normally go into their construction.

Noble’s work reminded me of a similar project by Chicago artist Harvey Moon who showed off his work on “The Drawing Machine” at the recent Maker Faire.  Using a similar cable driven microcontroller controlled2 pen drawing machine, Moon’s robot draws the same image differently each time!  Thus, each drawing is a unique little snowflake of arbitrary drawing machine coolness!

There are other equally impressive variations on drawing wall robots in the form of the Hektor, which draws with spray paint cans, the Drawbot by AS220 Labs, and Der Kritzler by Alexander Weber.  Alexander’s website provides a number of links to the websites of similar projects, if you’re looking for more information.

Also, thanks to John Abella for patiently answering my questions and pointing out additional resources!

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  1. Cue video! []
  2. Redundant?  Perhaps. []
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