Tortoise, Cleopatra, Receives New and Improved 3D Printed Shell to Protect Her From Infection & Disease

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We all love the cute little animal stories we come across while curating 3D printing news for this site. One story which I got rather involved with back in March, as I frantically made phone calls to those involved, had to do with a tortoise named Cleopatra. The story, which ended up receiving national attention and was the product of a lot of hard work and impressive design skills, did not end in March when we published that article, however.

Cleopatra a rescued, malnourished tortoise from Canyon Critters in Golden, Colo. recently received her new 3-D printed prosthetic shell. Colorado Technical University graduates and their kids were enamored by both she and her new shell, designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver. The new shell will protect her peaked shell and allow her to safely socialize again with other tortoises. Left to right- Cordelia Svoboda age 4, Kenna Lewin age 4 and Bella Lewin age 2. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

Cleopatra a rescued, malnourished tortoise from Canyon Critters in Golden, Colo. recently received her new 3-D printed prosthetic shell. Colorado Technical University graduates and their kids were enamored by both she and her new shell, designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver. The new shell will protect her peaked shell and allow her to safely socialize again with other tortoises. Left to right- Cordelia Svoboda age 4, Kenna Lewin age 4 and Bella Lewin age 2. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

The story all began back in Golden, Colorado at Canyon Critters Rescue, run by founder Nicola “Nico” Novelli. His company has been responsible for saving dozens of abandoned critters, while also teaching the local community about how to properly care for and own reptiles. One specific animal, a Tortoise named Cleopatra, struck a cord with Novelli, for it had a painful metabolic bone disease on its shell, known as peaking or pyramiding. The condition, caused by a poor diet becomes a problem when playing or mating, as the oddly shaped shell slowly erodes, leaving the tortoise susceptible to infection and disease.

Nico Novelli, owner at Canyon Critters Reptile Rescue in Golden, Colo. explains to onlookers at Colorado Technical University's graduation registration how Cleopatra the tortoise had peaking in her shell due to malnutrition. Her new 3-D printed prosthetic shell (red, on the right) designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver - will help to protect her shell and allow her to safely socialize again with other tortoises. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

Nico Novelli, owner at Canyon Critters Reptile Rescue in Golden, Colo. explains to onlookers at Colorado Technical University’s graduation registration how Cleopatra the tortoise had peaking in her shell due to malnutrition. Her new 3-D printed prosthetic shell (red, on the right) designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver – will help to protect her shell and allow her to safely socialize again with other tortoises. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

Long story short, Novelli teamed with Dr. Lanka Elson from the Colorado Technical University, along with Joe Weisenbach from the 3D Printing Store in Colorado Springs, and Debra Wilcox from the 3D Printing Store in Denver to scan the tortoise’s shell and then 3D print it a plastic cover to protect the area that was pyramiding. Also working on the project to design the shell, was a student from Colorado Tech. named Roger Henry who had volunteered a staggering 600 hours of his time to perfect the covering. Once perfected, the 3D Printing Store printed the protective covering out in four separate pieces on a MakerBot Replicator 3D printer before bonding them together and gluing the covering to Cleopatra’s shell.

In March, when we initially reported on the story, it was noted that the shell would have to be improved upon in the future. Well, that time has come. This month, Cleopatra was fitted with a new and improved 3D printed shell protector. This time, the covering was printed in one giant piece, also using red thermoplastic. This makes it sturdier and less able to crack at the seams. Additionally the team has added ventilation holes along its sides, as well as velcro straps to better secure the covering on Cleopatra’s back.

According to Dr. Elson, this new covering is approximately 5 millimeters thick and weighs about half a pound. The thickness is enough to protect the shell, but isn’t so thick that it weighs cl4the tortoise down. In total, it took approximately 20 hours of print time to fabricate this new covering, and should provide Cleopatra, who is only in her teens with a better long-term solution to her ailment. With that said, tortoises of her kind can be expected to live into their 80’s, with their shells ultimately growing to a size that’s two to three times of what Cleopatra’s is today. This means that eventually, additional updated coverings will have to be fabricated for the tortoise.

Let’s hear your thoughts on yet another heartwarming story which merges our love for animals with advancements in 3D printing technology. Discuss in the Cleopatra forum thread on 3DPB.com.

Dr. Lanka Elson, professor at Colorado Technical University and Nico Novelli, owner at Canyon Critters Reptile Rescue fit Cleopatra the tortoise with her new, 3-D printed prosthetic shell. Cleopatra's shell has peaking from malnourishment and without the prosthetic shell can't safely socialize with other tortoises. The prosthetic shell was designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team (Dr. Elson and Roger Henry) and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

Dr. Lanka Elson, professor at Colorado Technical University and Nico Novelli, owner at Canyon Critters Reptile Rescue fit Cleopatra the tortoise with her new, 3-D printed prosthetic shell. Cleopatra’s shell has peaking from malnourishment and without the prosthetic shell can’t safely socialize with other tortoises. The prosthetic shell was designed by a Colorado Technical University professor-student team (Dr. Elson and Roger Henry) and printed by the 3-D Printing Store in Denver. Photo credit: Jack Dempsey.

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