3D printing is far more than just one of those nifty things for big kids, its starting to push boundaries and make a real difference to lives both human and animal. In this week’s blog we’re going to have a look at the animals who have been saved by the wonders of 3D printing and give you all the opportunity to get your fix of cute animals and cool technology all in one go.
Grecia the Toucan
Source: Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Centre
After being attacked by a group of teenagers (who group-attacks a bird, honestly?), Grecia the toucan lost most of his upper beak. Luckily, the one-year-old bird was discovered and taken to Costa Rica’s Bird Zoo.
With such a horrific injury, the first thought was to euthanize Grecia. With no top beak there was no way Grecia could ever feed himself and that was only the start of the problems. A toucan's beak also regulates its body temperature, is a grooming device and also a means of self-defence. It’s also how mating partners are lost or won. In short, a toucan without a beak has next to no chance of surviving.
That’s when an IndieGoGo campaign began and raised $10,000 in fewer than two days. This was used in conjunction with various 3D printing companies who came together to recreate a 3D printed top beak. Though a toucan's beak may look heavy duty, it’s actually a rather lightweight and delicate instrument which, thankfully, 3D printing is extremely good at creating.
Despite this though, the design took months of tinkering; a toucan's beak - as with most organic designs - is fiendishly difficult to recreate and the engineers had to use the beak of deceased toucan to adequately replicate the specifics.
As you can see above, Grecia now sports a shiny new top beak that allows him to feed and preen and even more impressively, sing again. Grecia will not be released back into the wild as he would still be at a disadvantage (other animals being jealous, most likely) but were it not for the capabilities of 3D printing then Grecia would almost certainly have been put down as soon as he entered the Animal rescue centre.
Romina the Whippet
Whippets, along with their larger kin greyhounds, are one of the fastest dogs in the world, and looking at either breed you can tell they were made for running. Unfortunately, a whippet called Romina got into an accident involving a lawn mower and had to have her right foreleg amputated.
Romina’s owners, distressed that their pet had lost a huge amount of manoeuvrability, pushed to find another means of helping her and came upon the Universidad del Valle de Mexico’s Veterinary Hospital. There, the team designed and built a highly intricate 3D printed leg which is far more advanced than standard animal prosthetics, taking six months to perfect. Though it meant Romina had to learn to accommodate for it and learn a new technique, the new prosthetic allows her to run again. Another example of 3D printing saving the day.
Hermit Crabs are often on the market for a new home and in lieu of an actual shell they have been known to make their homes in all manner of things, including human rubbish. Of course this is not the most ideal of homes and so many individuals and companies have set about trying to create eco-friendly 3D printed shells to bridge the gap.
A beautiful application of this has been done by Japanese artist Aki Inomata, who has not so much been creating shelter for her Hermit crabs but kingdoms. These beautiful transparent shells are in the form of various cities around the world and not only allow you to see the crab fully but also make for a striking finish. Take a look at the video on the website link above to see one of the crabs moving into its new home.
Freddy the Tortoise
Source: ABC News
Freddy the tortoise was discovered after falling victim to a fire. The result was a loss of 85% of her shell leaving her back exposed and susceptible to other animals attacking her.
Freddy was taken in by the ‘Animal Avengers’, a group that comprised of four vets, a 3D printing engineer and a dentist. Together they worked to rebuild Freddy’s shell by examining the shell of a healthy tortoise and replicating that in a CAD design before finally going to print. Once the shell was complete, they even got an artist to paint the shell to mimic an organic one, meaning that Freddy blends in with her surroundings as nature intended.
These are just a handful of examples of how 3D printing has benefited the animal community, you will find hundreds of others. Most of the animals outlined would have otherwise been put down were it not for the opportunities afforded them by 3D printing and we can only hope that as the technology progresses, so can the level of aid.