"As we see on a regular basis, 3D printing has often been taken up as a tool to help better the lives of both people and animals. In the animal kingdom, a number of birds, dogs, cats, horses, and even turtles have been given a second chance at a comfortable life thanks to the dedication of specialists and rapid prototyping technologies. Most recently we heard Uga's story, who is one of many turtles rehabilitated with the help of 3D printing.
Uga was brought into an Italian veterinary clinic with both his back legs in a dire condition, and the vets thought the animal had been attacked by rats. After treating the turtle as best they could, the clinic staff were able to rehabilitate one of the turtle's legs but were forced to amputate the other, sadly leaving the turtle unable to walk. Fortunately, Uga was being cared for by an especially innovative veterinarian, Nicola Di Girolamo (also quite fittingly known as Dr. Furetto), who was not at all interested in giving up on the disabled animal.
To help Uga, Girolamo reached out to a local 3D printing hub, Roma Stampa, to see if they could help design and build a prosthetic device for the injured turtle. According to Roma Stampa, which is owned by one Massimo Montrassi, they received the Facebook post from the vet and were immediately interested in taking on the project and putting their 3D printing skills to the test.
The first step was to take Uga's measurements to make the prosthetic device custom fitted. This consisted of taking a gypsum mold of the turtle's shell as well as conducting a 3D scan of the shell using an Artec Spider to generate an accurate digital image. The concept for the prosthetic device was to build a sort of cart with two wheels that could be comfortably mounted onto the turtle's shell using magnets. With the design direction in mind, and a Zortrax M200 3D printer on hand, the 3D designers got to work.
Of course, the design process included a number of failed or imperfect prototypes which were adapted and adjusted until the final prosthetic design was made. This final design, which could be easily disassembled and put together, was printed using a black Z-ULTRAT material and was attached to the turtle's shell using two neodymium magnets.
Once Uga was fitted with the new 3D printed prosthesis, the veterinarians and the team from Roma Stampa were both equally excited to see the turtle take its first steps. Now, seeing the positive effect the technology had on the turtle's mobility, both parties understand the potential of the technology in the field of animal care and are hoping to continue to help animals with 3D printing."
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