Purps, an endangered African penguin who then suffered from a lame leg after getting into a fight with another penguin had helped her walk again through a 3D printed orthotic boot.
The effort has come up with the collaboration between the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, where Purps is resident, the Mystic Middle School and ACT Group, a local supplier of 3D Systems 3D printers.
After examining Purps injury, vets from the Aquarium found that Purps had actually torn her flexor tendon in her ankle and would not normally walk again. Despite of different attempts to handcraft suitable support boot for the penguin, Purps never fully regained her ability to walk and move as normal penguins do.
The team of veterinarians from the Mystic Aquarium had decided to reach out to their partners at the local Mystic Middle School after hearing about the potential of designing and manufacturing using 3D printing technology, in cooperation with the ACT Group.
Also with the guidance of Sue Prince, the library media specialist at the school, they started to create a fitting solution.
Mystic Middle School reached out to ACT Group to have some advice to work for the best boot design and what printer to make it. There comes not only to help the injured Purps but also to help educate children about additive manufacturing and 3D modeling. The ACT Group then became a partner and offered the students educational workshops and an access to 3D Systems’ multi-material ProJet MJP 5500X 3D printer.
The students from Mystic Middle School then successfully design a boot based off cast of Purps’ injured foot. The final boot was printed with flexible and rigid materials that resulted in custom-fitted, lightweight, durable and functional assistive device.
The students and team at the Mystic Aquarium sense that when Purps was fitted with her new 3D printed boot, she was able to walk much more easily than with her previous heavier boot and ran around with it on with ease.
“The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination and intuitiveness led this process,” said Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing and Applications Engineer, ACT Group.
“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.” he added.
“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 at the 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.” she added.