Everyone loves a good animal story, and the 3D printing world has plenty of them. From animal prosthetics to implants to even robotic assistance for bees, 3D printing has helped animals just as much as it has helped people. Here are 10 of the standout stories from this year about how 3D printing has helped our animal friends to live their best lives.
Dogs, Dogs, Dogs
Some of the most frequent stories we hear are about dogs, and that’s no surprise, because people love their dogs as members of their families and are willing to do anything for them. That’s why a puppy named Bento ended up undergoing a complex surgery to repair his leg, which had been fractured when he was very young. A 3D printed model of Bento’s leg helped veterinarians to plan out his surgery ahead of time, resulting in an operation that was highly successful where previous ones had failed. Meanwhile, an Australian shepherd named Tucker was born missing several of the bones in one of his feet, making it difficult and painful for him to walk. His owner contacted a local university’s 3D printing club, which 3D printed him a prosthetic paw so that he could stand and walk more comfortably.
A dachshund named Patches developed a tumor in her head and was facing a complicated, costly surgery – until veterinarians decided to try an alternative. A titanium skull cap was designed and 3D printed in a matter of weeks, and in a surgical procedure, the tumor was removed, along with the affected part of the dog’s skull. The skull was replaced by the 3D printed titanium skull cap, and Patches was able to recover quickly.
For the Birds
Peacocks can live up to 25 years, so Patches the peacock still had a long life ahead of him when he lost his foot to frostbite – but without help, he likely would have to be put down. In an example of the power of the Internet, Patches’ owner posted a YouTube video asking for help. The video was seen by a subscriber who posted the peacock’s story on Reddit, then found a model of a prosthetic bird foot and had it 3D printed and shipped to Patches’ family.
Jary the hornbill developed a crack in his casque, which is the helmetlike structure on top of his bill. A veterinarian confirmed that the crack was caused by cancer, and would require surgery. A surgical team was able to remove the cancer, but that also involved removing a large part of the bird’s casque. He will regrow a new casque eventually, but until he does, Jary has a nice new 3D printed casque which he even dyed yellow with his own tail feathers.
Hasan Kizil of Turkey is known as “the life repairer,” as he creates prosthetics and walkers for injured animals for free. When a child brought an injured eagle to him, Kizil used 3D printing to create a prosthetic foot, replacing the claws that the bird had lost. With part of its foot missing, the eagle was unable to take off and fly, but the 3D printed prosthetic allowed it to return to the sky.
Elsewhere in the Animal Kingdom
Daisy and Tim are two tortoises of vastly different sizes but with one thing in common – they both suffered from damaged shells. Daisy was struck by a car, while Tim was injured by an overly curious puppy. Both of the tortoises had the damaged parts of their shells replaced with 3D printed pieces. Both were able to recover nicely – and even became friends, as much as tortoises do.
Kodiak the sloth was having dental troubles. An off-set jaw and elongated teeth made it difficult for him to eat, as he could not close his mouth properly. A team of veterinary, dental and medical professionals used CT scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing to create a physical model of the sloth’s jaw, which was used to plan a tooth reduction surgery.
It’s not only prosthetics, implants and medical models that have been used to help animals – 3D printing has also been used in some really creative ways to save entire species. An artist from Australia developed 3D printed robotic flowers to give bees safe sites for pollination, as genetic modification and pesticides have made many plants unsuitable for the insects. Finally, 3D printed robotic fish were created for the purpose of sparing real fish from experimentation – as well as being used to steer real zebra fish away from predators.
Those are just a few of the ways in which 3D printing has saved the lives of animals, or made their lives better, this past year. 2017 saw plenty of animal stories as well, and as the new year approaches, there will undoubtedly be many more instances of 3D printing being used in new – as well as tried and true – ways to benefit the creature kingdom.
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