3D printing has made a real impact in every walk of life but perhaps it has affected the field on medicine the most. We can now “print” artificial body parts to help patients, especially the amputees which is like giving them a new life. But the application is not limited to humans only. Recently, a disabled African penguin came to learn to walk unimpeded again after slipping into a custom-made 3D-printed orthotic boot.
Like Derby the dog before her, Purps the Penguin found herself in trouble when another penguin damaged her flexor tendon in her ankle which rendered her unable to walk. Vets at Purps’ Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut treated her first by fashioning a plastic boot but it was too heavy and unwieldy. Therefore, they decided to use a 3D printed boot that improved the penguin’s mobility.
They printed the boot using the 3D printer obtained in partnership with local Mystic Middle School from 3D Systems which is the same 3D printing company who crafted Derby the dog’s prosthesis. Students at Mystic Middle School used a 3D scanner to scan an existing cast of Purps’ foot, which was then modified and used to create a design for the customized orthotic which is lighter, more durable and a better fit and has Purps walking and swimming just like her penguin pals.
“Our goal is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research,” said Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation, Mystic Aquarium. “In this project we achieved each of these desired outcomes while benefiting the health and well-being of one of our endangered species.”