One of my favorite reasons for covering the 3D printing space is the fact that I get to report on some really inspiring stories. I’m an animal lover and love seeing instances where humans and animals help each other in ways which make you realize the special connections we have with our pets. Previously we have covered many stories related to humans using 3D printers to come to the aid of animals. Just this past March, we did a story on a tortoise named Cleopatra, who had received a 3D printed shell due to a disorder that she had. This shell was not meant as a replacement for Cleopatra’s original, but was rather a means to supplement the deformed shell that was already there.
Today, however, comes news out of Santos, São Paulo, Brazil, where another tortoise, named Fred, has received an entire 3D printed shell as a replacement for one that he had lost. Fred specifically is a Red-Footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaris), a species found in many areas of South America. Unfortunately he was the victim of a recent forest fire that completely deteriorated the majority of his shell.
Veterinarians in Santos decided that they would use a desktop 3D printer to create a new shell for Fred, one which would protect him just as well as his original. With the help of a dentist and a graphical designer, the veterinarian team spent 3 months designing, iterating upon and 3D printing the new shell, which has now been surgically placed on the tortoise.
Fred unfortunately came down with a terrible case of pneumonia post-surgery, which prevented him from eating for about a month and a half, but in the end survived and is now doing very well with his new 3D printed shell. The shell, which was printed with the same PLA material that is found on most desktop 3D printers, has been holding up very well, although researchers are not exactly sure how long it will hold up for or if Fred will be able to be released into the wild.
As you can see in the photos provided, Fred’s new shell is a white one, but Brazilian artists have been contacting the veterinary hospital about painting it in order to make it look more authentic. For now though, doctors are hesitant, as they don’t want the paint harming Fred in any way. According to the team responsible for this amazing prosthetic shell, this is the first case of its kind to take place in the world. Never before has a shell been 3D printed as a complete replacement for a tortoise.
It should be interesting to continue following this story to see how well this shell holds up. Undoubtedly, Fred will need another shell before his lifetime is over, the question though, is ‘how soon?’ What do you think about this amazing story? Discuss in the 3D Printed Tortoise Shell forum thread on 3DPB.com.