MakerBot Prints New Shells For Homeless Crabs

Hermit crabs are in trouble.

Often recognized by the large shells/homes they carry around on their back, these ocean scavengers are facing a housing crisis.

Ocean acidification, a symptom of climate change and unbridled marine pollution, destroys the cast-off shells of mollusks that hermit crabs usually call home.

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 unacceptable to the folks in the MakerBot Community.

The creator of the Thing-O-Matic, a printer that can create 3D objects, MakerBot has rallied its community of hackers, artists and makers to come up with alternative shells for homeless hermit crabs.

Crab habitats, or “crabitats,” have been set up at MakerBot locations in Brooklyn and L.A. MakerBot community members from all over the world will send their best shell designs to the Project Shellter team who will print them and place them in the crabitats to see what the crabs think.

Crab Habitat

The Thing-O-Matic can print in one of two plastics – ABS (what Lego is made from), and biodegradable PLA plastic. When hermit crabs outgrow the printed shells, they’ll leave them behind for younger crabs to habitat in the future! Which will the crabs like better, PLA or ABS? Will they even accept 3D printed shells as a substitute? The future of the species may depend on the answer to this clever experiment!

Shell designs from the MakerBot community will also be posted on, MakerBot’s online community where users can post digital designs and collaborate on open source hardware, and tagged with “SHELLTER.”

Use the hashtag #SHELLTER on twitter to track what’s going on. You can join Project Shellter on Facebook too!

Related Reading:

King Crab Invasion Likely If Antarctic Waters Get Warmer

Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” Larger Than Ever And Growing

Google Earth Video Shows Ocean Pollution Is A Global Problem

Image Credits: MakerBot Blog/Stef Shapira


Dave C.
David C5 years ago


Pat M.
Patricia M6 years ago

someone is trying to help. Good for them

Alison V.
Alison Venugoban6 years ago

This is a very silly idea. If you really want to help the crabs, use snail escargot shells (the original occupants are eaten in restuarants and the shells get thrown out as rubbish), give them a rinse and dump them into the ocean for the crabs. They'll sink to the bottom and actually be useful, rather than the plastic ones which will just bob about on the surface with the rest of the rubbish we throw into the sea.

Erin Y.
Erin Y6 years ago

Wow that's fantastic and so creative! :-)

Kath R.
Kath P6 years ago

I love this idea. Bravo MakerBot community!

Sue H.
Sue H6 years ago

Very cool that someone cares enough to do this, but also very sad that we have put the
hermit crabs in this terrible situation.

-- -6 years ago


Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

How ingenious!! There must be many other uses for this product too!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago

Great idea!

Douglas S.
Douglas S6 years ago