We have seen some truly remarkable moments of people from around the world helping animals with 3D printing. From dogs, to cats, ponies, ducks, and even to parrots, 3D printing has given kindhearted people a way to effect some positive change in the lives of our furry friends. Now 3D printing has brought penguins into the world of 3D printing with two heartfelt moments that will melt your heart when it comes to these two magnificent birds.
PURPS THE PENGUIN
Yellow/Purple, aka Purps, is one of a group of endangered African penguins living in a colony at Mystic Aquarium. A few years ago, Purps got into a skirmish with another penguin and tore the flexor tendon in her ankle, leaving her unable to walk properly. Veterinarians at the aquarium created a small molded plastic boot to stabilize and support her injured leg so she could walk, but the boot was rather heavy and made walking awkward for the small penguin. It also needed to be replaced frequently, which was a time-consuming process, so they decided to look for a different approach. Luckily, they knew just who to contact – their longtime partner Mystic Middle School, which had just gotten a 3D printer from ACT Group, a Connecticut-based partner of 3D Systems.
The students at Mystic Middle School were unsurprisingly thrilled to be asked to design a 3D printed boot for the penguin, though they were still new to the technology. Library Media Specialist Sue Prince contacted the ACT Group for assistance, and they were glad to help. The company facilitated a workshop in 3D technology for the students, who used 3D Systems’ Geomagic Capture 3D scanner to scan a cast of Purps’ foot provided by the aquarium. They then imported the scan data into Geomagic Sculpt to add details such as treads and closures to the boot, which they printed on a 3D Systems ProJet MJP 5500X multi-material 3D printer.
The 5500X allowed for the creation of a strong yet elastic boot made from both flexible and rigid materials. It fit better than Purps’ existing boot, and was also more lightweight and durable; according to the penguin’s caretakers, she immediately took off across the exam room as soon as her new boot was fitted, walking more normally than she had in the five years since her injury. Now Purps can waddle and swim as well as her fellow penguins, and hopefully has made up with – or is at least keeping her distance from – the penguin who gave her a busted ankle in the first place.
Purps isn’t the first penguin to benefit from 3D printing. There was Bagpipes the little blue penguin in New Zealand who recently got a whole new 3D printed foot. While designing a boot may not have been quite as challenging as creating a viable 3D printed foot, the students still learned a great deal about 3D printing and design, as well as how to create a workflow to take an idea from concept to reality – something that will serve them well in the future.
BAGPIPES THE PENGUIN!
Due to an unfortunate run-in with a fishing line back in 2007, Bagpipes the penguin was brought to the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch to have his foot amputated, and has been limping around ever since. According to Mal Hackett, a penguin keeper from the popular Antarctic Centre, the penguin would constantly incur pressure wounds on his stump. So they decided to design and 3D print some prosthetic prototypes for the little blue Penguin, hoping to restore his waddle back to normal.
The prosthetic limb prototype was designed by Dr. Don Clucas, a senior lecturer in design and manufacturing from the University of Canterbury, who said the most difficult part of the process was scanning the restless penguin’s foot. The goal of the 3D printed prosthetic limb is to get Bagpipes using his feet and flippers normally again, rather than over-compensating for his amputated limb. Last Wednesday, the penguin was fitted with the prosthetic for the first time, which according to Dr. Clucas, went much better than they had expected.
This is a first for both the Christchurch Antarctic Centre and the country of New Zealand in general, which has never before treated a wild animal with a 3D printed prosthetic. The center hopes that, with the success of Bagpipes’ 3D printed prosthetic device, this technology will be utilized more in the future to help save injured animal residents.