3D-printed orthotic boot lets injured penguin waddle with the best of 'em

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Purps the penguin found himself in the hands of 3D printing experts after an injury severely affected his ability to move around

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3D printing has made a real impact in the world of medicine, particularly when it comes to aiding amputees in the third world. But this technology has plenty to offer the animal kingdom too, as a disabled African penguin came to learn after slipping into a custom-made 3D-printed orthotic boot and regaining the ability to walk unimpeded.

Like Derby the dog and Stumpy the turtle before him, Purps the penguin found himself in the hands of carers after an injury affected her ability to move around. This came after an incident with another penguin damaged the flexor tendon in her ankle, which vets at Purps' Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut treated by fashioning a plastic boot.

This did the job of supporting and protecting Purp's injury, but was rather unwieldy. So the team partnered with the local Mystic Middle School, which had recently obtained a 3D printer built by 3D Systems (the same 3D printing company who crafted Derby the dog's prosthesis) to make a customized boot that would improve the penguin's mobility.

Students at Mystic Middle School used a 3D scanner to scan an existing cast of Purps' foot, which was then modified and used to create a design for the customized orthotic. The printed boot is lighter, more durable and a better fit and has Purps walking and swimming just like her penguin pals.

"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, 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."

Source: 3D Systems

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