Avian Expert Articles

3D Technology Offers New Lease On Life

A bald eagle named Beauty was shot in the face by a hunter. 3D technology was used to give her a new beak, and she could once again eat, drink, and groom herself.

All around us, science is technologically advancing to create newer tools that will allow life to continue more productively. Where a bad accident would have decided a fate years ago, science is now ensuring that the quality of life is a continual positive experience. Not too long ago, two toucans were brutally handled. As a result, their long, majestic beaks were snapped off. Years ago, that would have meant a death sentence for both Grecia, and Tieta. Both toucans have been thriving with the miracle of 3D printed beaks, without which, both birds would have been unable to live their extraordinary lives.

Since those pioneering moments, much has happened in the world of 3D printing where our animals are concerned. Even humans have benefitted from the use of the technology to create useable parts that will bring a solution to impossible situations. In 2014, a baby was diagnosed with tracheobronchomalacia, a rare congenital condition that causes the airways to be weak and susceptible to collapse. This child was often in danger with collapses that caused it to live in a hospital for much of its first two years. The doctor turned to 3D printing to fashion a tracheal shell that would fit around the child’s existing windpipe. Once surgically applied, it would provide a wall of strength allowing the original pipe to improve without a need to suffer the demands of its intent. And while the issue is much more complicated, the splint has been successful in providing a fighting chance for the child to survive an immediate dangerous condition.

Just as exciting, 3D printing has become a world of hope to animals. A tortoise was Freddy-The-Tortoisecaught in a raging bush fire in Brazil that caused his protective shell to be completely destroyed. Normally, this would result in the eventual death of the tortoise. But, after being saved from the fire, a San Paulo volunteer group known collectively as the Animal Avengers, reconstructed the shell of “Freddy” by the use of 3D computer images that were sent to a dental surgeon (of all people) to form using his 3D printer. The beautifully printed shell was reattached, and hand-painted to create a natural appearance. Today, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. The results are amazing. And Freddy isn’t the only tortoise to get a 3D shell. There’s Cleopatra as well.

In another story, a loggerhead turtle had unfortunately come into contact with a rotating Turtle-With-titanium-Jawboat propeller while swimming. The sea turtle’s jaw was destroyed, which would have ruined the creature’s ability to exist in the wild. But with quick thinking, the animal was brought to a Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. With assistance from a Turkish biotech company specializing in 3D medical prosthetics, a 3D titanium jaw was fashioned and attached by surgeons and veterinarians in a two and a half hour surgery. The turtle is still recovering but things are looking better and better, with the hope of soon returning the creature back to its natural habitat.

There is a story that involves an American Bald Eagle. The eagle was shot in the face by a hunter and abandoned. Her beak was completely destroyed. The eagle was found and turned into a facility to see what could be done. But by then, the bird was in a bad way, unable to clean or eat without its beak. The eagle was nursed back to a sustainable health but the caregiver was often told to euthanize the bird as a humane gesture. As luck would have it, the caregiver was giving a seminar. It was there that the doctor met with an engineer, who offered to create a 3D printed version of Beauty’s beak. After a 2-hour procedure, Beauty the Bald Eagle was the owner of a new beak. After the surgical application of the beak, she was able to resume functions natural to an eagle. Functions like eating, drinking water, and grooming herself, were all made possible, restored by the use of the miracle of continually emerging 3D technologies.

Our final story involves a duck. Named Buttercup, the duck was born with a defect that Buttercup-the-Duck-3D-Printed-Footdisabled it with a twisted left foot. The duck spent a portion of its life at a habitat to provide a quality of life that it would not be able to enjoy in the wild. At one time, amputation was a considered treatment. However, Buttercup’s caregiver stubbornly researched the possibility of a new 3D printed foot that would help the duck in many ways including the reduction of pronounced hobbling, and the ability to swim. After the creation of several feet and over a hundred hours of improvements, Buttercup is now experiencing the world as she may never have been able to prior to the restoration. But with the science of 3D printing, she is as new as she can be.

3D printing is a science of great hope. With it, technology is improving to allow for the creation of body parts, and transplantable internal parts that include veins, teeth, and organs. All of these things are being researched using stem cells and natural materials to avoid the threat of rejection. Already, there has been the creation of mini beating hearts and new livers. Soon, a new heart replacing a weakened or diseased heart, or even to immediately help a heart attack victim may be the commonplace cure that keeps a person alive for much longer. The future of the medical applications using 3D technology is miraculous indeed.

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