Beautiful 3D Printed Hermit Crab Shells

Hermit crabs don’t grow their own shells. As a result, they need to continually search throughout their lives for new and ever larger shells in order to house themselves. Inspired by nature and architecture, Japanese designer Aki Inomata 3D prints tiny and intricate shells to house hermit crabs. To do so, she uses a CT scanner to scan existing seashell geometries. She then transforms the geometry of the shells into forms that evoke dynamic city skylines, Thai temples and Christian wedding chapels to mention just a few designs.

And the response from the Hermit crabs? According to Imoto, reactions are mixed. While a number of the crabs outright reject the designs, a significant number test out the shells and then quickly adopt them as a new home.

For Imoto, the nature of these printed shells has an added layer of cultural meaning, representing the migration of humans and the shifts in borders that result from changing meanings of ‘home’. Furthermore, despite the fact only 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, 60% of weddings in Japan occur within traditional Christian wedding chapels. For Imoto, the ease with which hermit crabs adopt her wedding chapel shells parallels the ease with which Japanese culture mimics and adopts Western traditions.

The idea of 3d printing Hermit crab houses also has an environmental angle and the technology could perhaps play a future role in providing hermit crab habitat. Due to worldwide shortage of seashells, due to a number of factors including excessive harvesting in places of seashell materials, hermit crabs have recently been found to be adopting bottles and other types of ocean waste for their new home – a less than ideal scenario.

Images from Aki Inomata.