Plastic Exoskeletons for Turtles

Nadine Roestenburg
February 25th 2017

Turtles love jellyfish. Unfortunately, they often mistake plastic bags for their favorite food. According to the United Nations Environment Program each year 100,000 marine mammals, including sea turtles, die from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris; waste directly or indirectly disposed in oceans, rivers and other waterways. Antonio Esparza designed the TurtleBag: a 3D printable exoskeleton to help turtles distinguish plastic bags from jellyfish and extend their lifespan.

The TurtleBag is an exoskeleton that, with plastic muscles, compresses a pair of vacuum bags on top of the turtle’s shell. It uses one-way valves to swallow plastic bags through a small gap. When the turtle stretches its neck, the entrance valve opens. It still needs some testing and awaits multi-material desktop 3D printers. But according to Antonio Esparza, the TurtleBag should work because plastic bags are completely compressible while jellyfish are not.

Instead of questioning if we should persevere nature, Esparza suggests the use of additive manufacturing for peaceful coexistence. The TurtleBag is exemplary for our human way of speeding up other species’ evolution to let them survive the Anthropocene. 3D printing already saved some tortoise’s lives, the TurtleBag might be lifesaving for many. 

This project is featured in the 3D Additivist Cookbook. You can download the 3D Additivist Cookbook online in 3D PDF, including the 3D files to print TurtleBags. 

Sources: 3D Additivist CookbookUnited Nations Environment Program

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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