Prefabricated homes have really evolved over the years, to the point where they really do come in all shapes and sizes. 3D printing has been of immense benefit in this regard, with the world’s first 3D-printed house currently being assembled in Amsterdam. Prefabricated houses aren’t just for people, however, and groups around the world have been putting their creative talents towards creating homes for animals in need… and one of the species being designed for is the ever-fascinating hermit crab.

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Why would a hermit crab need a plastic house, you might be asking? Like its distant human relative, the American hermit crab population is currently facing a massive housing shortage: there are simply not enough shells left on beaches anymore for hermit crabs to inhabit. Biologists routinely find crabs attempting to shelter themselves in glass jars, plastic containers and whatever other ill-fitting forms of refuse they can find. Scientists suspect that this sad situation might be due to pollution, but another major contributing factor may be over-collecting of seashells by humans. In order to try to remedy this environmental problem, (and perhaps draw social and cultural analogies?) conceptual artist-cum-bioengineer Elizabeth Demaray decided to give the little guysa “hand-up” a few years ago by mass-producing tiny plastic houses for them.


Another group that’s doing all they can to re-house our hermit crab cousins is Project Shellter, which is currently creating super-stylish 3D-printed shells for wild hermit crabs. While Demaray’s houses are well suited to very young crabs, Shellter’s are larger homes for older animals to move into. This project has been shared via Maker Bot, and people are encouraged to share their own plans for potential hermit crab shells, or just download other people’s patterns and print them on their own machines.

After discovering that hermit crabs around the world were living in everything from shotgun shells to glass bottles (which, if they break, can kill the little crabs), the folks behind Project Shelltermade it their mission to create housing for these vulnerable friends. If you happen to be part of the Maker Bot community and would like to help out a crab in need, feel free to print up a home or three for some local crabby folks, or submit a design of your own. Every creature appreciates kindness, and although humans are the ones who have rendered these guys homeless, people are also taking steps to ameliorate the situation as much as possible. Hooray for crabs!

+ Elizabeth Demaray

+ Project Shellter