A 3D printed shell has given a new life to a badly burned tortoise that was found by the side of the road in Brazil in 2015, with its shell heavily damaged.
The new shell was designed and printed by a Sao Paulo group of volunteers that includes veterinarians, a 3D designer, and a dental surgeon, who together are working to save injured animals using 3D-printed prosthetics to replace damaged or missing limbs. They call themselves Animal Avengers.
“We first came together as friends because of our common love of science and our love for animals,” Roberto Fecchio, one of the group’s members, told the Daily Mail. “We soon realized we could do some extraordinary work using cutting-edge technology to push back the boundaries of life-saving care for mutilated animals by giving them customized prostheses,” he said.
The tortoise, which the Avengers named Freddy because her "back looked like the face of Freddy Krueger," as ABC reported, had been the victim of a fire in 2015 that destroyed 85 percent of her shell, which is critical protection from predators.
To save Freddy, the Avengers’s 3D designer compared photos of her to that of a healthy tortoise, and then used computer modeling to design a custom prosthetic hull based on Freddy’s measurements. The design was sent to the group’s dental surgeon, who used a desktop 3D printer to create a four-piece shell that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, as the Daily Mail explains.
The shell was then surgically attached to Freddy and even hand-painted by an artist to look authentic. The group reports to the Daily Mail that Freddy returned to full mobility.
The Avengers also have used this technique to print new beaks for a toucan, a goose, a parrot, and a macaw.
Many other animals have benefited from advances in 3D printing, including Derby, a dog born with deformed front legs. A 3D design and printing company in Rock Hill, S.C., called 3D Systems, printed a pair of prosthetics that allowed Derby to walk, run, and sit for the first time.
The company designed a figure-8 pattern with a central junction that flexes like a knee, as CNet reports.
It used a technology called Selective Laser Sintering, which uses a laser to harden and bond together tiny grains of plastic. The same technology was used to print the lightweight midsoles for New Balance shoes, according to CNet.
“A wonderful thing that came out of all that is that it really inspired people,” said Tara Anderson, a 3D Systems director, in a video about the project to create legs for Derby. “And that was a very humbling experience to be a part of.”