Artem uses Stratasys’s Connex3 3D printers to create crab shells and miniature houses for Zoopla advert

A selection of the shell and miniature house models produced on Stratasys’s Connex3 3D printer in Digital ABS material

Artem—a UK-based special effects company—has used USA-based Stratasys’s Connex3 3D printers and Digital ABS material to create 10 hermit crab shells and over 20 miniature houses for UK property site Zoopla’s latest TV advert.

The advert is shot on a beach in Costa Rica and stars a number of property-seeking, real hermit crabs in the shells, sporting the miniature houses on their tops.

Simon Taylor, Artem’s owner and creative director decided to take advantage of the Connex3 printer’s multi-color and -material capabilities in order to produce the shells and miniature houses. He felt that the high levels of accuracy and realism required could not be achieved using traditional, hand model-making techniques. Indeed, 3D printing allowed Artem to overcome many of the design constraints normally encountered.

Accuracy had to be prioritized since the hermit crabs needed to be convinced of the shells’ authenticity, particularly in terms of their internal structure, and happily inhabit them for the duration of filming.

Artem scanned hermit crab shells obtained from the beach in Costa Rica, ensuring that the models precisely replicated their ‘every bump, curve and nook’, internally as well as externally.

Each of the miniature houses is no bigger than a matchbox and reflects an architectural style popular in the UK, ‘from townhouses to country cottages’. The Connex3 printers and ABS Digital material allowed for the printing of each house at a resolution of 16 μm for exceptional accuracy. This, in turn, meant that Artem could focus on the minute details, such as individual roof tile and brick textures, and did not have to compromise on the models' realism. 

Artem had one month to produce the models. The timeframe encompassed: receiving and scanning the shells; creating the CAD files; printing a prototype and sending it to Costa Rica for testing out on one of the hermit crabs; and then of course printing the final 10 shells and 20 plus miniature houses.   

The printing of the final models is said to have taken less than a week, with several Connex3 printers running 24/7.

The advert is part of a long-running, multi-series campaign called Crab World and is currently being broadcast in collaboration with TV film and video production company Riff Raff Films and advertising agency 101.

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