The good gentlepeople at Makerbot are quite clever in picking projects that have large public appeal. They have printed Racing Turtle Shells but now they are extrapolating the shell theme to the natural world and printing new homes for hermit crabs. They are crowd sourcing the design for a shell for hermit crabs. Apparently these crabs are facing a shortage in homes as they don’t build but scavenge their homes on the bottom of our oceans.
A wonderful idea, but alas.. The Makerbot only prints plastic. And chucking plastic into the ocean would be very bad publicity. Ah.. and of course it would be bad for the creatures living in the ocean also. Sure they can use PLA plastic which is biodegradable, but it seems that hermit crabs are known to sometimes to nibble on their homes like Hansel and Gretel once did. Eating PLA plastic is not a good idea, even for crabs. The Makerbot solution is to limit the design intention for hermit crabs living in captivity (People really do keep them as pets!?). It, in their reasoning, limits the amount of shells sourced from the ocean, thus help solve the issue of the shortage of shells in the ocean. Leaving more homes for hermit crabs that acually live in the ocean. I think this is just a way of trying to make it sound good, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
So, the people at Makerbot have picked a good project, but I think the product that they are trying to sell through raising awareness with this project (the Makerbot 3D printer) is limiting the usefulness of their efforts and also of the people involved in the crowd source project. If they really do care about those hermit crabs and less about their sales figures, they should really step away from their own Makerbot platform and try and come up with a shell that is more natural.
I’d suggest something cement like, that closely resembles the make up of a natural shell. Start reading through sources like Wikipedia what a natural shell entails and what it is made out of and try to mimic that by printing it in 3D. Sure, if they can find a way to use their Makerbot platform to print the alternative material, than I am all for it. Only than you can really say you care about nature as you can put these human-made shells back into the ocean, really solving an issue with a proper solution.
Anyway.. I am sure that the Makerbot gents and gentesses have a genuine wish to do good, rather than only pushing their product so I am going to close off this entry with writing that I am all for good intentions like this one. Just hope that these efforts will not go in vain..