Hermit Crabs Move into 3D Printed Homes for New Advertisement

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Moving into a new home isn’t easy. While it may be exciting and a new beginning, almost no one really enjoys the process itself. It’s stressful and a lot of work to pack up everything you own and haul it into a new place. For a hermit crab, however, moving is easy, which is why they do it so often. They’re also open to technologically advanced dwellings; while humans are still working on creating 3D printed houses, hermit crabs have been moving into them for a few years already. That’s why special effects company Artem Ltd. decided to use the technology to create a new hermit crab-themed commercial for UK property website Zoopla.

The ad features hermit crabs examining and moving into 3D printed shells with actual miniature houses on their backs, as you can see below:

The shells not only needed to feature tiny houses, they needed to be realistic enough on both the outside and the inside that the crabs would actually move into them. According to Simon Tayler, Artem Owner, Creative Director and Designer, 3D printing was the only way to achieve those goals.

“From the beginning, I knew this was a job for 3D printing,” he said. “It would have been impossible to achieve the level of realism required with conventional, hand model-making.”

To 3D print the shells, Artem turned to Stratasys 3D printing technology, which allowed them to design and produce shells that closely mimicked real shells in both look and feel – closely enough to attract the crab actors.

“We were keen to do all we could to ensure that these shells weren’t rejected and would not harm the crabs,” said Tayler. “With Stratasys’ multi-color, multi-material 3D printing, we were able to mirror every curve, bump and nook of a shell’s natural shape, including the interior.”

To create the shells, the Artem team 3D scanned actual shells found on a beach in Costa Rica, where the commercial would also be filmed. The scans were then turned into 3D models, which were 3D printed using Stratasys’ durable, tough Digital ABS material. The team 3D printed more than 20 miniature houses in styles of popular UK architecture, from country cottages to town houses.

“With 3D printing, we could work with minute details like individual tiles or roof or brick texture that was only 30mm across without losing any element of realism,” said Tayler. “Thanks to the capabilities of the Stratasys Connex3 3D Printer and respective materials, each house was 3D printed in an impressive 16-micron resolution for incredible accuracy.”

3D printing allowed Artem to meet a strict deadline, as well – the team only had a month to design and create the shells. With Stratasys 3D printers running 24/7, the shells were 3D printed in less than a week’s time. Then they needed to be carefully painted in fine detail. Once the shells were complete, the hermit crabs were happy to move in and be filmed – though, as you can see in the video below, they weren’t always the easiest actors to work with.

The project worked out well, though, and the commercial is currently being broadcast in the United Kingdom in collaboration with Riff Raff Films and creative agency 101.

You can learn more about the process in the video below:

Discuss in the Hermit Crabs forum at 3DPB.com.

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