"Victoria the Brazilian goose is rapidly collecting world records. In late 2015, she became the first goose to receive a 3D printed prosthetic beak after almost completely losing her own. While that initial surgery was promising and Victoria was up and about quite quickly again, the beak was too heavy and bulky and she failed to properly adapt to it. In another world's first, her caretakers therefore brought Victoria back to the Unimonte Veterinary Hospital in Santos, Brazil, where she just received a lighter and slimmer beak that will hopefully let her live a normal life again.
It's a story that just shows that even 3D printers can't work miracles all the time. Victoria was found on the Sao Paulo coast in late 2015, without most of her beak. Fortunately, she was immediately transferred to the care of the NGO Friends of the Sea - which takes care of more than 200 marine animals every year. "It was the first time I received a bird without a beak," recalled environmental technician Cristian da Silva Negrao. "She was very weak, having lost a lot of weight and was very aggressive. I had to feed her baby food for the first twenty days."
After about two weeks, Victoria became more and more docile and she started eating better. But this remained difficult, as almost all of her beak was destroyed - possibly in a fight or an accident. As you can see in the photos above, there was no prospect of any kind of further recovery, and Negrao was still forced to cut regular foods into very tiny pieces. In an attempt to find a long-term solution, the NGO therefore got in touch with specialists from the Unimonte Veterinary Hospital in Santos.
Fortunately, they were happy to help. Dentist Paulo Eduardo Miamoto took the lead, and applied his knowledge of animal dentures to make a mold and collect photogrammetry data. That was sent to Cicero Moraes, a 3D designer and researcher from Mato Grosso. As he revealed, he made the piece 3D printable using MeshLab and Blender software. The final model featured beak airways added at the request of surgical dentist Dr. Everton da Rosa, and was 3D printed in PLA.
At the time, everything went very well. Veterinarians Dr. Roberto Fecchio and Dr. Sergio Camargo from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) led the surgery, and Victoria the goose seemed to perfectly adapt to the beak. Upon completion of the surgery, Victoria was moved to her own reserve for eight days, after which she was moved to a monitored pond with other creatures.
But since then, Victoria failed to fully adapt to normal life again, probably in part because the beak was too heavy. In an unprecedented move, Victoria therefore returned to the surgery room. The second beak was again designed by Paulo Miamoto, who called it a very big and time-consuming challenge to improve the beak. "No one in the world has ever done something like this, we are pioneers. But the biggest difference with this second generation beak is that we have the x-rays and we followed anatomical studies as closely as possible. We know exactly how it should be fixed for a durable fit," he said.
Moraes was again responsible for the final modeling steps. "This 3D printed prosthesis is lower, lighter and more elegant. To get to this stage was a lengthy process. It was our most difficult surgery, but undoubtedly a very educational and groundbreaking one," he said.
Veterinarians Fecchio and Camargo were also more optimistic this time around. "It's a very big challenge. It's the first time we returned to such a surgical environment, and this time will be a little different. Victoria will also go through a much more intense rehabilitation process," Fecchio explained. This was echoed by Camargo, who said that this was a very educational moment for animal prosthetics. "We need to know how the beak behaves, how you dive into the process and how you affix the new beak. It's a step forward in the field of 3D prosthetics," he added.
The surgery itself was again a success and as Friends of the Sea's Negrao revealed, the new beak should greatly help the bird. "It is lighter and has more fixation slots to ensure a durable fit. This is certainly an improvement," he said. "Victoria will have a new chance to survive and return to a normal life. She can become the first goose in the world to lose a beak and be completely rehabilitated." Let's hope a third beak won't be necessary."
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