No, we're not talking about pretty little crab toys you can print and hand out to your 8 year old nephew. Instead we're talking about an innovative project undertaken by one of MakerBot's artists in residence, Miles Lightwood.
The project is concerned with the fate of the lowly Hermit Crab, a crustacean currently facing difficulty. The problem is the crab's shell: it doesn't actually have one. The hermit crab, you see, simply co-opts other leftover shells to make its own. However, in these days of increasing pollution, disappearing wild habitats and acidic water due to climate change, leftover shells are becoming harder to come by.
Lightwood's project is to ask the 3D design community to produce designs for shells that can be used by hermit crabs. You might think designing a shell for a specific crab wouldn't be particularly interesting, but in fact it is because the hermit crab uses any old shell it comes across. But what is the best shell? What size of opening is best? Depth of chamber? Curve of shell? Weight? Shape?
We don't know the answers, and you'd have a hard time asking a hermit crab, too. But the answer will be found by trying a great many designs, and that's where the crowd approach will work best. What design factors do you think the crabs will prefer?