Even when it is not the first time 3D printing technologies come to the aid of other species for partial or full recovering life’s style, get to know about new cases is always comforting to our community; this particular case shows how Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Middle School, ACT Group and 3D Systems teamed together to use 3D scanning, organic design, and 3D printing to help Yellow-Purple, the African female penguin, getting a completely functional 3D printed boot.
It all begun as an invitation from Mystic Aquarium to Stonington’s Local school in Connecticut, The USA., to be part of their Animal Rescue Program, which aims to support animals in need while inspires participants to protect and care about our marine environment through the improvement of observing, hypothesizing and experimenting skills. Mystic Aquarium also deal with global and local issues, and invites the community “to be part of the solution” by different formal and informal education programs (you can take a look of on their official site).
Yellow/Purple, a 23-year-old African penguin, better known as Aka Purps, is part of the endangered species collection protected by Mystic aquarium ever since she hatched; Purps came up lame one morning after having a spat with another penguin on exhibit in 2011 and was unfortunately diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon in her left leg (specifically her left ankle region) by Dr. Jen Flower and the team of veterinarians at the aquarium. Before any trying with 3D technologies, doctors eventually worked on molded prototypes of ‘orthopedic boot’ for Purp’s ankle, but all were too heavy and bulky then made it even more difficult to waddle – as a common penguin does – but also needed to be frequently replaced.
Kelly Matis, Vice president of education and conservation at Mystic Aquarium affirms the recent acquisition from the Local Middle School of their first 3D Printer by ACT Group (3D System’s Connecticut-based partner) was also a great opportunity to make a connexion between children and the animal rescue program since they found out the advantages of using 3D printing tech searching for similar cases; the group of selected students, under the direction of Library Media Specialist Sue Prince, were obviously excited about the idea of creating a new supporting boot for Purps. Nevertheless, they were still new to this kind of technology and didn’t know how to create a workflow to take their idea from concept to reality, which is why they had to look for ACT Group’s assistance.
Luckily, ACT Group perceived the potential of the project and not only provided students with educational workshops – so they learned to develop a design within a digital workflow using Geomagic Sculpt Software by 3D Systems – but also were able to use materials like the recently funded MJP 5500X 3D printer, an imminent tool for this scheme to happen if we consider the fact that allows printing in multiple materials from rigid to elastomeric, and these were just the right material for the type of prosthesis for Purp’s paw.
“The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination, and intuitiveness led this process […] It was rewarding to provide them with a technology that could keep up with their ingenuity, and to watch them pick up the software so quickly. It further demonstrates the need to have students learning to digitally design and manufacture at a younger age” said Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing and Applications Engineer for ACT Group.
The whole process to get it done took main points like scanning with a 3D digital model to generate a paw scanner, and modification of digital design to create a functional, lightweight and resistant prosthesis for Purps; finally, it all was printed in a single piece with high resolution from a variety of flexible and rigid materials such as VisiJet CE-BK Elastomeric Black and VisiJet CE-NT Elastomeric Natural, both recently introduced by 3D Systems.
As I see it, the opportunity of using such as up-to-date Tech children had is just awesome – bearing in mind that there is not a full connexion between middle school education programs and 3D printing yet -; This case also emphasizes the versatility of 3D printing in all fields and ages to get profitable results able to benefit animal’s health but also education. Worth, isn’t it?
Watch how 3D Systems’ end-to-end solutions improved Purps the Penguin’s mobility!