AMS Spring 2023

3D Printed Prosthetic Legs Give Derby the Dog Full Mobility & New Lease on Life

6K SmarTech

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derbyani3D printing is such an amazing technology. In the past 2-3 years we have really seen the technology make its way into all fields of study and all walks of life. It has gone on to impact the lives of millions of people in one way or another, and has enabled many individuals to do things they never would have thought possible previously.

It’s not just humans that have been reaping the benefits of 3D printing. Our four-legged friends have also been seeing the many advantages that 3D printing provides. In the past, we’ve covered stories of different ways in which animals have been the benefactors of the technology. This includes TurbooRoo, a dog that had a wheelchair 3D printed for him, as well as other animals such as ducks, penguins, cats and more, that in some way, shape or form have benefited greatly from this relatively new technology.

Now, comes a story that may just blow all of these others out of the water. It is of a dog named Derby, who was born with two deformed legs.

It all started back in October when 3D Systems’ Director of CJP Product Management, Tara Anderson adopted Derby as a foster mom from Peace and Paws Dog Rescue, after his owners could no long care for him. Peace and Paws provided Derby with a home, preventing him from ultimately being euthanized.

Derby, sans prostheses

Derby, sans prostheses

“I kept looking at his photo, and hearing his story, and I cried literally every time,” explained Tara Anderson. “I had to try and help this dog.”

A cast made of Derby's left leg

A cast made of Derby’s left leg

Anderson first decided to get Derby a cart, which he actually could use quite well. However, she felt as though it was inhibiting him from playing with other dogs, and could not provide Derby with the full motion of running. So, with the help of 3D Systems, their Freeform Product Manager, Kevin Atkins, and ABC Certified Orthotist at Animal Ortho Care, Derrick Campana, the team was able to come up with a design for two prosthetic legs, after creating several different iterations.

Using a plethora of different 3D technologies, including 3D scanners, as well as highly sophisticated 3D modeling software, the team was able to create very unique prostheses for Derby, which fit him to a tee.

“The great thing about using 3D technology in Derby’s case, is having these images on file on a computer, and being able to print them. [It] is a lot quicker than having to hand sculpt every single mold and rebuild these braces five to ten times,” explained Kevin Atkins.

At first, they created Derby a “running man” like prothetic, but Anderson was concerned that they would too easily dig into the ground. So, she came up with more of a looped design, which the team created and then printed on a 3D Systems’ ProJet 5500 MultiJet 3D printer. This printer allows for the printing of dual materials, creating rigid as well as flexible parts on the same object.

One of the original iterations -- a "running man" device.

One of the original iterations — a “running man” device.

Derby’s adopted parents, Sherry and Dom Portanova were extremely impressed by the results that were provided by Anderson, 3D Systems and Campana, in the creation of the dog’s prosthetic legs.

“When I saw him sprinting, it was amazing,” exclaimed Dom Portanova. “I couldn’t believe it! He runs with Sherry and myself every day, at least 2-3 miles. He runs faster than both of us, he never really tires out [and] he’s just so happy to [run].”

The very first time the prosthetic legs were fitted to Derby, he immediately started running, as if it was totally natural for him. As you can see in the video provided, it was almost as if Derby was born for these legs, and the legs born for him.

derbyport4“This is what 3D printing is about,” said Anderson. “To be able to help anybody; a dog, person, whoever, to have a better life, there is no better thing to be involved in.”

Derby, Anderson, and the Portanova’s are very pleased with the results. While it originally took some time for Derby to get used to his new prosthetic legs, and the development team a while to get just the right fit and iteration, in the end they turned out perfect.

This goes to show you that when you combine 3D printing with people who care, almost anything is possible. Thanks to the volunteers at 3D Systems, the love shown by Anderson and the Portanova family, and the expertise of Derrick Campana, this is yet another  example of a heartwarming 3D printing story.

What do you think about this design? Will 3D printing lead to an easy way of creating prostheses on a one-to-one basis for both humans and animals of all walks of life, in the near future? Discuss in the 3D printed dog prostheses forum thread on 3DPB.com.

The legs being 3D printed

The legs being 3D printed

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