02 August 2016

This penguin's boot is made for walking ... with a 3D printer

Purps and her new boot
USA – Injured African penguin Purps can walk more easily with her new 3D-printed orthotic boot, made using 3D Systems' scanning, design and printing technology.

The lightweight, custom-fit boot is the result of a collaborative project between veterinary staff at Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut, students at Mystic Middle School and technical experts from ACT Group, a Connecticut-based 3D Systems partner.

Mystic Aquarium resident Purps (whose official name is Yellow/Purple) was left with a non-functional flexor tendon in her ankle following an altercation with another penguin.

Veterinarians at the aquarium initially handcrafted her a boot from moldable plastic material to immobilise, support and protect the injury site. It was adequate, but Mystic Aquarium's animal care team wanted a more modern solution for the boot that would be more durable, less cumbersome for the small bird, and faster to make.

Interested in using 3D printing for Purps’ rehabilitation, Mystic Aquarium contacted its long-standing partner Mystic Middle School, which had just acquired a 3D printer through ACT Group. The three entities joined forces to fabricate a superior boot for Purps.

Mystic Middle School students successfully executed the majority of the design-to-manufacturing workflow. After a workshop facilitated by ACT Group, the students used 3D Systems’ Geomagic Capture® 3D Scanner to scan an existing cast of Purps’ foot, then imported the scan data into Geomagic® Sculpt™ software for modification and customisation.

The orthotic boot was printed in the ProJet® MJP 5500X multi-material 3D printer as a single piece. 3D printing the boot led to a final product that was better fitting, lighter weight and more durable, allowing Purps to walk and swim like the rest of her peers.

As well as enhancing Purps’ mobility, the boot also provided the students with a meaningful, goal-oriented framework from which to develop a design within a digital workflow.

“This project not only helped a member of an endangered species, but it gave our students a hands-on understanding of the 3D printing process and how to carry an idea through from a concept to a design to a usable object,” said Sue Prince, Library Media Specialist, Mystic Middle School.

“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.”

“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.”

Watch a video of Purps and her new boot.

3D Systems Partners with Mystic Aquarium, ACT Group and Middle School Students to Help Disabled Penguin Walk Again, 18 July 2016, 3D Systems

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