Hermit crabs are squatters by nature, they salvage empty shells into which they can retract their soft, spiral shaped abdomens. Hermit crabs are popular pets and are often selected by the attractiveness of the particular shell they are occupying when purchased. As they can live quite long lives (up to 32 years in some cases!) they periodically need new shells either because they outgrow the old one it becomes damaged. When this occurs, they leave behind the old shell, after having found a new one to occupy and, thereby, create another vacancy for a different crab.
Japanese artist Aki Inomata is one of many people around the world who has hermit crabs for pets. She read stories about ducks, eagles, dolphins, and people who have received prosthetics, created through 3D printing, and wondered about the possibilities for creating individual homes for her crabs. In the absence of a suitable shell, hermit crabs have been known to occupy alternatives such as bottle caps or plastic casings.
This seeming flexibility belied the complexity of creating a shell that a crab would choose to occupy. Inomata explained:
“At first I thought hermit crabs could fit into any shape of shelter, since I knew that some hermit crabs choose lids of mineral water bottles. However, it wasn’t so at all. I tried several but they didn’t pay attention.”
After the first set of shells was largely ignored, Inomata began to experiment and refine to see if she couldn’t create something that would attract the crabs’ attention. She worked with a variety of factors such as weight and size but was continually frustrated by the difficulties of making such adjustments manually. It was then, that she used a CT scanner to capture a minutely detailed, high quality scan of the interior of a shell that one of the crabs had previously been using. With this data available, she was able to print a new home that the creatures immediately recognized as suitable.
The shells that she created mimic the skylines of New York, Greece, and Thailand, allowing the crabs to drag nations with them as they move about their tank. The idea for the urban silhouettes resulted from considering the meaning of the movement and adaptation that are part of human immigration and emigration. Questions of the suitability of new environments and the abilities to adapt to new surroundings make the idea of hermit crab shell migration particularly interesting. Ultimately, the project asks the question: who are we when we are no longer in our native environment?
“In Japanese language, hermit crabs are called ‘Yadokari’, which literally means somebody living in a temporal place. Though the body of the hermit crab is the same, its appearance changes completely according to the shell it is wearing. It’s as if they were asking, ‘who are you?’”
It is, of course, difficult to accurately assess any measure of ‘hermit crab happiness’ but there is no reason to believe they would have decided to inhabit the shells if they did not meet their requirements. What do you think of these uniquely designed, 3D printed shells? Discuss in the 3D printed hermit crab shell forum thread on 3DPB.com. You can watch a video of the process, both of creation and as the crabs choose their environments below:
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
America Makes Announces $11.7M in Funding for 3D Printing Projects
America Makes, the Manufacturing USA (MFG USA) institute headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio, has announced $11.7 million in new funding opportunities, spread across ten different topic areas in additive manufacturing (AM)....
3D Printing Webinar & Event Roundup: May 28, 2023
It’s another busy week in the world of 3D printing webinars and events, covering topics like automated wax support removal, wire-laser metal additive manufacturing, SLS 3D printing, manufacturing for space,...
Zeda Opens 3D Printing Facility in Cincinnati to Serve Regulated Industries
Today, California-based Zeda, Inc. announced that it has officially opened the doors to its new 75,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company, which rebranded to Zeda from PrinterPrezz...
Jabil Introduces First PLA for Powder Bed 3D Printing
When we last caught up with Luke Rodgers, senior director of R&D at Jabil (NYSE: JBL), the manufacturing solutions provider was in the process of releasing a new material for powder bed...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.