Alison Friedlander


3D printing hermit crab shells?

I’m getting some super tiny hermit crabs for my little reef tank over the next few days and my evil scheme is to try and 3D print them some weird shells (mostly because I couldn’t find any actual shells locally and I’m looking for creative ways to procrastinate from the other things I should be doing).

This morning I made a few random basic shell shapes in Maya… In the process, I learned about the wonderful world of animation sweeps, which are pretty darn lovely. At some point I might make a little video about how I made the shells, which was pretty easy once I found a reasonable tool… Anywho…

3D shells made in Maya

I arbitrarily selected the middle shell, threw it into Cura and tried to print the sucker. The first print failed, so I re-oriented the model and that worked better (and by ‘better’ I mean ‘flawlessly’; I printed it with the point facing directly down…).

3D printed shell that’s too large for the snails in question…

The supports came off pretty darn well, but I made the shell waaaayyy too big since the snails apparently like shells that are .5-.75″ big and this one was at least 1.5″ big, so I scaled the print down 50% and reprinted.

The little shell detached from the build plate when it was about 70% done, but it does at least look like it’s a better size…

I’m finally being forced to try out new methods of sticking things to the build plate besides skirts….. Brims are my choice of the day because the only time I’ve ever tried to remove a raft from a print I couldn’t do it and I’ve been salty about that for literally years.

Since I also got *super* bored watching the same shell print over and over, I decided to spice it up a little bit and add a random skull I made a while back.

Skull Snail Shell!

You better believe that if I’m going to randomly fabricate my own crab shells, I’m going to do something with them that nature can’t, or what the heck is the point… If I were printing shells for larger hermit crabs (which I probably will one day), I think it’d be really cool to print them with skulls and barnacles all over them, then hand paint the suckers. Or perhaps I could just throw a succulents all over the shell.

As I’m writing this, I have the little skull shell printing at .1mm layer height, which kills my soul to wait for, but whatever… All the other ones were .2mm layer heights.

And, in case anyone was wondering, these shells seem pretty strong. I squeezed the big one in my hand as hard as I could and I could barely get the opening to bend, let alone the spiraled portion of the shell. I tried the same thing with the smaller one and stabbed myself hard enough with the point that I desisted, but I’d be surprised if anything short of a rock falling on the little snails could hurt these shells (and all my rocks are pretty much sitting directly on the bottom of the tank, so I don’t really see that being an issue unless malicious intent is somehow involved).


Cura Preview of Skull Snail Shell Printing

And with that, I leave you with this random Cura preview of how the skull shell will print… It’s about 33% done now…

p.s. Why the heck is Cura adding random layers of print in the middle of the shell?!?!?! I designed that to be hollow… wtf