Project Shellter: Can the MakerBot Community Save Hermit Crabs?

Photo credit


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.