The tiny water-dwelling creatures, known for their cute, yet slightly creepy appearance, are so tiny that the human eye can barely make out any of their features. Measuring approximately 0.5mm in length, when magnified at low power their eight legs and chubby little bodies are impossible to ignore.
Besides their mutant bear-like appearances, what really intrigues many individuals is their resilience to harsh environments. In fact, the Tardigrade is probably the most resilient creature on earth. They can be found 13,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, where pressure prevents many organisms from surviving, as well as 20,000 feet above sea level in the Himalaya Mountains. Their tiny bodies are able to withstand temperatures well above boiling, and more incredibly, temperatures which approach absolute zero (–273.15 degrees Celsius). If this isn’t enough to intrigue you, maybe the fact that they can survive without food or water for a decade, or that they can withstand ionizing radiation at levels 100 times greater than those which would kill a human being, will do the trick.
There is little question why the internet has taken a keen liking to these incredible creatures over the years. They are so popular that a team of men working with Shapeways decided to capitalize off of them a bit.
Eric Ho, from Raw Legend Collaborations, and also a social media strategist at Shapeways, collaborated with designer Kostika Spaho to produce the first ever known 3D printed model of a Tardigrade. Ho originally became interested, or perhaps even obsessed with the creatures, when he saw a segment of the show COSMOS, hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson, which discussed their amazing resilience.
After several weeks of planning and researching the tiny creatures, he wanted to take things a step further. Ho reached out to Spaho, who then designed the creature using ZBrush. Although Ho himself is not a designer by trade, he provided much of the guidance to Spaho on how he wanted the model to turn out. Spaho was able to take these suggestions and produce an extremely accurate magnified model of the creature, and quickly send it off to Shapeways to get printed. Within a week, they had their model printed and in their hands. Ho also posted the rendering of the creature in his Shapeways shop as soon as it was complete. The demand for the printed version of their Tardigrade was so high that prior to even receiving their test prints in the mail from Shapeways, they had several sales.
From there the two men set out on a marketing blitz, generating media buzz which has led to many of these creatures being shipped out all over the world. Whether consumers want these as tools for learning, as a gag, or just something to put on their desk, the 3D printed Tardigrade has certainly been a hit. The great thing about Shapeways is that the design can be ordered in a variety of colors and materials. This includes plastics, sandstone, and even precious metals such as 14k gold.
Are you considering ordering one of these cute, yet creepy 3D printed creatures? Let us know in the 3D Printed Tardigrade forum thread on 3DPB.com.