tinytim

[Image: wpde.com]

Lately, we’ve come across a lot of stories about kindhearted animal lovers who have been using 3D printing technology to help disabled animals. 3D printed wheelchairs have returned mobility to animals with missing or damaged limbs, like Lilly the goat and Tumbles the puppy. Designing a custom wheelchair for an animal is always a challenge, but the smaller the animal, the harder it is. For the members of maker/hacker collective SubProto, however, designing a wheelchair for a tiny kitten was a challenge they were excited to take on.

Tiny Tim was only about a week old when he and his siblings were rescued from the euthanasia list at the Horry County Animal Care Center in South Carolina. An organization called Friends of Horry County Animal Care Center was started in 2012 as a backup to the animal shelter, taking pets bound for euthanasia and finding permanent or foster homes for them. Not long after Tiny Tim and his litter were rescued, it was discovered that the kitten’s back legs were paralyzed. Tiny Tim doesn’t seem too bothered; using his front legs, he’s able to shoot around the floor so fast that his human friends can hardly keep up with him. Dragging his back legs behind him, however, will inevitably cause problems.

tim“Now that he is growing, his legs are tending to stay a little bit irritated too,” said Cathy Salmons, a volunteer with Friends of HCACC. “It’d be like dragging your own feet along, you know…So they knew from the beginning that he would need a little wheelchair.”

In stepped SubProto. The Myrtle Beach organization describes itself as “a social club for makers, hackers, and anyone with a passion for building and hacking software and hardware.” When they heard about Tiny Tim, they wanted to help him. According to Joe Stewart, SubProto’s founder, there are plenty of wheelchairs for pets that can be purchased online, but nothing small enough to fit a tiny kitten. So the group offered to make one for Tiny Tim.

“We’re from the internet – we’re all about the cats, right?” said Stewart. “We said yes we’re going to do it, bring him in, and we’ll start taking the measurements and we’ll start doing the design.”

harness

[Image: SubProto]

The group created a design for the kitten using CAD software, and the first prototype was 3D printed. A couple of days ago, Tiny Tim had his first fitting. While the final wheelchair is still a couple weeks away from being completed, the prototype fitted the kitten snugly, and he appeared to be comfortable in his colorful new harness, which will be attached to a chair made from laser-cut plastic. Obviously, since he still has a lot of growing to do, Tiny Tim will need progressively larger chairs until he’s full-grown. That won’t be a problem, though, according to Stewart.

“All we have to do is go back to the CAD program, scale it up to match his new size, and then we can print out a new prototype or we can just go straight to the laser cutter and print out a new template, take that plastic out, heat bend it, and we’ve got a new, finished product basically within an hour,” he said.

cruiser

Tiny Tim is even ready to take on the Death Star. [Image: SubProto]

SubProto is more than happy to continue to help Tiny Tim for as long as he needs it. A look at the group’s Facebook page shows that the kitten already has a lot of fans cheering him on–including in his very own Facebook group. If you’d like to donate to help Tiny Tim, you can do so at Friends of HCACC’s website.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Wheelchair For a Kitten forum on 3DPB.com.

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