3D printing is influencing the way so many innovators around the world create today. Whether you are a hacker, a hobbyist, a designer, engineer, or a surgeon, chances are you have heard about the benefits of such technology that offers greater affordability overall, rapid turnaround in production, and incredible ease in designing and making changes to parts, objects, and prototypes that can be 3D printed. The medical field has been positively affected in so many ways too—changing the quality of lives for so many patients in need—and even saving their lives in some cases. We’ve followed so many different stories over the years where implants or 3D models were able to make a huge impact, plus research that has the potential to cure arthritis or make corneas from stem cell bioink.
The animal world has been impacted in many different, surprising ways too—due to the care of humans who so often want to see them given a second chance at life. This usually takes the form of a prosthetic, like those created for dogs to help with balance and mobility, and even other items like 3D printed wheelchairs for kittens. 3D printing and bioprinting is also even helping to reduce the amount of animal testing in labs today.
As more and more animals receive such progressive care, many veterinarians are quick to reach out with help they would not have had at their disposal previously; in fact, Dr. Shane Boylan of South Carolina was able to put both his veterinary talents and technological enthusiasm to work in making two new feet for Gumpy, a seagull. Sadly, this came just after Boylan was forced to amputate the seagull’s feet.
Gumpy arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium with both of his feet in peril after they became wrapped in fishing twine.
“He had two dead feet barely attached, and they brought him in to be euthanized,” Boylan, the aquarium’s chief vetrinarian, said. “I looked at the feet and realized I had to amputate them but the bird had a lot of fight left in him.”
Not everyone would go to such lengths to save a gull, but Boylan felt like prosthetic feet would set the seagull right again and allow him to live a quality life.
“Ring-billed gulls are the kind of bird you see at the beach,” Boylan said. “They eat out your hand, they are used to dealing with people. So I figured if anybody had a chance to survive it would be Gumpy.”
Gumpy, named after the titular character in Forrest Gump, is following in his namesake’s “magic shoes” with his own new feet. Not only is Gumpy living a quality life again—he is doing so in Boylan’s home.
“He shares the dog bowl with two Boston Terriers. He just pushes them out the way and he eats out of the bowl,” Boylan said.
Gumpy’s 3D printed feet were made possible via help from the Department of Teaching, Learning and Technology at the College of Charleston, made with PLA on a MakerBot 3D printer. Boylan says that Gumpy will be a living testimony to others on how disabilities can be overcome:
“So kids can see if they’ve got amputations or if they’ve got prosthesis that… birds get the same thing and wildlife gets the same thing that people do,” Boylan said. “If this animal can overcome a catastrophic injury really caused by humans, so can everybody else.”