There are plenty of examples of 3D printing helping the disabled, whether it’s the custom foot prosthesis, the Robohand, or the WREX exoskeleton. There will be a whole article about that later. Presently, we’re going to look at how 3D printing is helping our furry (and feathery) friends:
Buttercup the duck gets a new foot
Buttercup was born with a deformed left foot, and he’d never been able to walk, err… waddle correctly. The nice people at Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary are his caretakers. They’re not just nice though; they’re resourceful too. By 3D modeling a replica of the left foot of Minnie, Buttercup’s sister, and sending it to NovaCopy, a foot was 3D printed.
The printed foot was used as a mold to create the red silicone foot on the right. It slips over a custom sock and Buttercup is able to waddle (and swim!) much better now with his new prosthesis.
Beauty the bald eagle gets a new beak
Beauty was shot by a poacher in Alaska and lost most of her upper mandible, making it impossible for her to eat and preen herself. Before dying of starvation, she was rescued and transferred to Birds of Prey Northwest where Janie Fink Cantwell fed her liquids from a tube and solid food with forceps. When her beak didn’t grow back after some time it was recommended that she be euthanized. Janie did not accept that decision and sought any help that was offered. After she gave a presentation that mentioned Beauty, a mechanical engineer from Kinetic Engineering Group named Nate Calvin went up to Janie and said “I think I can help you with Beauty if you are interested….” He created a physical mold of the missing part of the beak, 3D scanned it, tweaked it a bit in SolidWorks, and then 3D printed a nylon-polymer prosthesis.
With the help of Nate’s dentist, it took the team two hours to attach the new beak to the patient raptor, but it allowed her to eat and drink on her own for the first time in years. Her own beak eventually started growing again, which pushed the prosthesis off, but enough grew back that she can now feed herself without it.
Freddy the dog gets a wheelchair
Freddy started to lose function in his back legs after being diagnosed with degenerative disk disease (a disease that will soon be treated with 3D printing). Though he’s going through physical therapy, his owners were afraid he’d lose the ability to walk so they set to designing 3D printable rods to build him a wheelchair. They actually designed blocks that can be screwed together for an adjustable sizing. Some belts and fabric were added to the frame to form a rudimentary wheelchair for the little pup.
All of these cases were executed by people with no experience with 3D printing adaptations for animals. Sometimes saving a life requires a pioneering spirit.