Pet Rescue: 3D-Printed Prosthetics Help to Change Animal Lives
This cute little puppy whose name is Derby, was born with tiny forearms and no front paws. Walking was extremely painful for him until last year. Generally, when animal shelters find a dog with this particular defect, they’ll choose to end the animal’s life; that was Derby’s fate but luckily for him the Peace and Paws nonprofit came along and rescued him. Then, Tara Anderson, a 3D Systems employee, joined the rescue efforts and became Derby’s foster parent. She was hoping to find a 3D-printed solution to help Derby walk without pain. In turn, the company saw an opportunity to improve Derby’s life and perfect a prosthetic treatment for thousands of other dogs that suffer from leg handicaps.
Today, more than 10,000 dogs have received 3D Systems’ custom implants and prosthetics, allowing them to run freely without a cumbersome wheelchair holding them back. Derby’s situation was not an ideal situation as he had two giant wheels that were secured to the front of his body with a support system. The device allowed the puppy to move, but he could only propel himself forward with his hind legs, so it was inefficient and uncomfortable.
To get around this, Anderson’s team worked on a few prototype prosthetics that could attach to Derby’s front legs, eliminating the need for wheels altogether. First, they gave him a CAT scan and created a digital model based on his leg dimensions. Then, they molded a cast around his elbows to gather more information about the overall shape. After a few failed attempts, the team settled on a cupped design that absorbs shock and provides excellent traction.
To bring their designs into the wider medical world, 3D Systems partnered with Rita Leibinger Medical and created a TTA RAPID (or Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) implant. This 3D-printed augmentation is actually inserted into a dog’s hind leg to stabilize the knee without full ligament surgery; six weeks later, many dogs are able to run normally again. So far, the implant has been used in Europe and the United States, but the companies are planning to eventually distribute the technology worldwide.
Derby’s condition is different from the dogs who suffer from degenerated ligaments, so the process to create his prosthetics was a little more specialized, but there is hope for a wider release. All told, these printed applications prove that the medical world is only beginning to reap the benefits of 3D printing technology. Compared to traditional manufacturing, 3D printed objects can have much more complex and diverse designs, allowing medical teams to print implants to fit small or large dogs’ bodies. Before 3D printing, the prosthetics process was expensive and slow; now, new prototypes can be made in a matter of hours.
Today, Derby lives a happy life in New Hampshire with the Portanova family, who adopted him as Tara Anderson’s team worked on his prosthetics. For a dog, mobility is everything, and now Derby can keep up with other dogs in the neighborhood.
Filed under: Adopt A Dog Or Cat
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