While 3D printing has been used to craft airway splints, hands and ribs for human patients, the technology has also helped our furry and feathered friends. From doggy wheelchairs to toucan beaks, 3D creations have made life better for a lucky group of animals.
Bubbles the dachshund was born without her front legs. She needed a set of wheels to get around, so her owners created a custom wheelchair using carbon fiber combined with 3D-printed parts and bits borrowed from a model airplane. The wheelchair design is available online so other pet owners can download the information and fashion rolling aids for their own puppies.
Being born with malformed front legs and no front paws never dampened the spirit of Derby the dog. His foster mom, an employee at 3D design and printing company 3D Systems, helped design a set of 3D-printed prosthetic front legs to allow him to move around in comfort and run like a regular dog. The blade-style legs were later replaced with a more advanced design.
After happily adjusting to his new prosthetic limbs, Derby the dog was ready for an updated model that would raise the front of his body into a normal dog walking position. The new 3D-printed design came in the form of a modified figure-8 with a center section that operates somewhat like a knee, allowing for some flexibility as the pooch moves about.
Dekamer Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
Robo-turtle gets a new face
In 2014, Akut-3, a large loggerhead turtle, suffered an injury from a boat's propeller. Besides a fractured jaw, he lost almost 60 percent of both the upper and lower jaw on the right side of his face. A sea turtle rehabilitation center took the shelled creature in and hooked him up with a fresh face in 2015. Akut-3's 3D-printed prosthetic was designed using 3D models of the turtle's face for a comfortable, custom fit.
Buttercup was born in a high school biology lab in 2012. The white waterfowl came out with his left foot turned backward, seriously cramping his ability to move around. Buttercup moved to Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary and got a new lease on walking. His damaged foot was amputated and a new one made through 3D-printing a mold. Here, Buttercup poses with a replacement foot.
This close-up shows a duck foot made with the help of 3D printing. Buttercup, an amputee, received a flexible silicone foot to help him walk normally back in 2013. In 2014, Buttercup received an updated design in the form of a fully 3D-printed foot with a bendable ankle. The lucky duck is getting around just fine today.
Tiny TurboRoo the chihuahua was born without front legs. The plucky pooch isn't letting that inconvenience slow him down, however, since his human friends got him a 3D-printed wheelchair designed to let him roll around on his own. The body of his wheelchair was made with a 3D printer, but the wheels are durable skateboard wheels. The 3D printing allowed multiple versions of the cart to be made as TurboRoo grew from a puppy into a dog.
Tieta the toucan had a rough life until she was rescued from an illegal animal seller in Brazil. Half of her upper beak was missing, so her rescuers hooked her up with some 3D-design experts. Those designers created a 3D-printed plastic prosthesis to repair the damaged bill, allowing Tieta to eat like a normal toucan once again.
Ozzie the goose was an unlucky waterfowl the day he broke his leg. It had to be amputated at the joint. He had trouble moving around, so a team of 3D-printing experts came together to fashion a new foot for the big bird. The designers took measurements of his stump to get a good fit, a process that can be seen in this photo.
This 3D-printed leg is a prototype designed for Ozzie, an amputee goose. BunnyCorp, a South African digital design firm, has experience working with human prostheses and used that knowledge to aid in the design of this goose leg and foot.
Chickens aren't always the nicest companions, a lesson Dudley the duck learned when a chicken attack left him without a leg when he was a duckling. Rescuers made Dudley a new leg by 3D-printing a prosthesis.
This image shows the initial design for a 3D-printed leg to replace one lost by Dudley the duck after a chicken attack. The jointed limb didn't hold up well, requiring a different approach. The successful limb is made in one piece from soft plastic, and Dudley was soon back on his feet with the help of his new leg.