The ability to create affordable prosthetics for humans by 3D printing has been in the news since shortly after the it was invented. Now, more animals are benefitting from the technology. Most recently, several birds have successfully joined this growing club of animals with 3D printed prosthetics. But damaged beak most often means death since the birds can’t eat properly, making this 3D printed fix a life saving solution.
Grecia from Costa Rica
Take Grecia, a toucan from Costa Rica. He was a neighborhood pet, where people fed him regularly. This is why he didn’t fly away when approached by a group of kids who snapped off his top beak. Toucans not only use their beaks to eat, but also to regulate body temperature, so Grecia was in a dangerous situation.
Locals took Grecia to the Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Center, where workers campaigned for money and help to create a prosthetic for him. Ewa Corps designed him a two piece 3D beak, with a fixed part and removable piece so that it could be cleaned or replaced when Gercia outgrows it.
Grecia isn’t the only bird benefitting from a 3D printed beak. In the US, a penguin and an eagle have successfully adapted to the prosthetic.
A Chinese Pelican’s Loss for Love
One Chinese White Pelican living at the Dalian Forest Zoo in China ended up with a partially shattered beak after a courtship fight with other pelicans. The bird couldn’t open and close his mouth, let alone eat, and he was shunned by the rest of his flock. Doctors tried several times to fix the damaged beak with aluminum foil but it could not withstand the bird’s activity. They decided to enlist the help of Bao Shu of the Dalian Ruling Science and Technology Company to create a 3D prosthetic.
In White Pelicans, the beak grows tissues that connect inside the mouth, so that removing the broken section of the beak and replacing it with a prosthetic wouldn’t be possible. So instead, doctors 3D printed a board with matching size and texture of the pelican’s beak, and screwed it into the existing beak to hold it in place. The prosthetic took four prototypes, but it was a success, and the pelican was already able to eat again the day after surgery.
A Green Bill from Brazil
The most recent success story of a bird with a new beak is for a Green Billed Tucon, who lost most of his upper beak after flying into a window.
“This toucan could not eat, so if we did not do the operation he literally starve to death,” said veterinarian Roberto Fecchio. “We had to think of something to help him. It is voluntary work involving many people, a multidisciplinary team and we are learning too along the way.”
Doctors replicated part of the bird’s beak using photogrammetry, and printed a prosthetic that now allows the bird to lead a normal life.