One of the things that gets under my skin the most when people talk about 3D printing, are those individuals who focus on only the negative aspects of the technology. This mostly stems from the existence of various designs for 3D printable guns, which the media seems to be all over, sometimes depicting 3D printers as a means to ending the control that government exudes over dangerous criminals. Fact is, 3D printed guns have not been used to harm a single soul, as far as we know. Instead of focusing on these potentially negative aspects of 3D printing, we here at 3DPrint.com try to focus on the good that is being done through the use of this tremendous technology.
Back in August, we reported on a dog named TurboRoo, who was born without fully developed front legs. To combat this birth defect, one man designed a 3D printed “doggy cart” which enabled TurboRoo to get around just like a normal dog would. This story gained a ton of media attention, rightfully so, and showed that 3D printing can and is being used for doing plenty of good.
While this story was quite heartwarming, today 3DPrint.com learns of another story that might even top that of little TurboRoo. This story takes us down to a town in Southern Brazil, called Blumenau, and introduces us to an extraordinary dog named Branco, and an equally extraordinary man named Gilmar José Purin.
Purin lives a rather simple life, as a work-at-home software architect and developer for a Canadian company called Omniware. He is one of those on the ever-growing list of individuals who have become quite fond of 3D printing technology.
“I bought a 3D printer a while ago and learned how to work with some 3D design tools like Blender, 123D Design and AutoCad,” Purin tells 3DPrint.com. “I started making stuff for home, and creating new projects from scratch. Watching them jump from the screen into reality became a hobby.”
Purin’s girlfriend Kelli, is a volunteer for a newly launched initiative within Blumenau, responsible for picking up injured, mistreated, suffering and dying animals from the streets, and helping them recover before putting them up for adoption into caring homes.
“One day this dog was left in the institution,” Purin tells us. “It was run over by a car, lost an eye and broke his backbone. His name was Branco, and he was a healthy dog. It seemed like the incident ocurred quite a while ago, as his backbone looked calcified and the back legs were atrophied. My girlfriend took me to see [Branco] and he was so full of life, and exuded so much passion. He was dragging himself around and was trying to stand up but could not. The way he was looking at his legs, not understanding why he was unable to stand, broke my heart.”
Purin wanted to do something to help this misfortuned dog, so he began looking on the internet for wheelchairs built for canines, but found that they were way too expensive. He then considered building his own wheelchair using PVC pipes and other materials, but none of the designs he saw looked very strong, nor very customizable for different sized dogs. Finally he got the idea of designing and 3D printing his own wheelchair for Branco.
Purin decided to make his design scalable so that he could create wheelchairs for dogs of all different sizes. He printed his first version of the wheelchair, and had his mother-in-law create the fabric bed portion for him. Then he took the device and gave it to Branco. “It was a success,” explained Purin. “The first version was a little high for Branco, but with a few adjustments it was made perfect. He started running along the corridor, but this first version used bicycle training wheels, and because they were too wide, Branco kept crashing against furniture. So, I went back home and designed a new wheel for the chair with ball bearings to make it very light.”
Unfortunately this story takes a turn for the worse.
“I had to go on a trip for a week and when I came back home my girlfriend told me that Branco had passed away,” Purin sadly told us. “I was devastated, it happened a couple of weeks ago and it brings me tears just by [telling you this]. Branco died and could not even try his new wheels.”
The cause of death is unknown, but Purin doesn’t plan on keeping these upsettling circumstances from allowing Branco to leave a bit of a legacy. He has decided to put the design files as well as assembly instructions on Thingiverse for others to download and build for free. Without a doubt this wheelchair will go on to serve plenty of other dogs, thanks to Branco, and his good friend Gilmar José Purin, who sums up this story by saying:
” Branco died and left a gift for his injured fellows.”
In all, it takes approximately 15 hours to print the needed parts on a typical FDM based 3D printer. Purin recommends using flexible filaments such as NinjaFlex or FilaFlex to print the tires of the wheelchair, but he says that high tension rubber tape will work as well. Also, if there is room available for the dog to roam freely, bicycle training wheels may remain an option.
What do you think about this heartwarming story? Have you made one of these for another dog? Discuss in the 3D printed doggy wheelchair forum thread on 3DPB.com.