July 24, 2015 | By Kira

The National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) in Taipei has become the first veterinary clinic in Taiwan to offer animal-specific rehabilitation centers and to produce animal prosthetics using computed tomography and 3D printed technology. They are currently applying for a patent for their technology in order to contribute further to veterinary research and to increase the quality of life of injured animals.

If you grew up with a household pet, whether it was a puppy, kitten, or even a turtle, you know that in a very short amount of time they become much-loved and indispensable part of your daily life. However, as pets age or become injured or ill, it’s not always clear what can be done. Not all veterinary clinics have the equipment or resources to treat them, and even if treated, their quality of life can take a serious hit. However, as medical and scientific technology advances, more and more treatment options are available, allowing our furry friends to live longer and healthier lives. The United States have already introduced animal-specific physical therapy workstations, and now Taiwan is keen to follow suit.

Researchers demonstrating 3D printed animal bones. Source: NPUST

(Photographed by: Mao LiZhen)

With the NPUST’s 3D printing method, animal bones are scanned with computed tomography (CT), and the images are then transferred to a 3D printer. An exact replica of the skeleton can then be printed in PLA and used either as a prosthetic, or as a teaching mold for further medical research and surgical simulations amongst students. According to Lin Lee-Shuan, assistant professor of the University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, 3D printed models can be more than 30 times cheaper than traditionally-manufactured ones, and are superior in terms of accuracy and operating functions.

One of the University’s success stories is the dog, pictured above, who suffered from a lame front leg. According to Kuo Shin-Jung, one of the medical students from the department, animals with diseases or who have suffered accidents can end up with bone damage that not only affects their outward appearance, but also severely limits their movement. Thanks to a new 3D printed prosthetic, the dog’s full mobility has been restored.

While the technology is very promising, Lee-Shuan does admit that other countries such as Japan, and United States and areas in Europe are already more advanced and able to implant 3D printed animal bones. This is because they have access to high-end, industrial 3D printers capable of melting metal or alloy materials. He says that while they have the technology, more funding will be needed to get them to this level. Currently, they are waiting for the patent approval and discussing future opportunities with manufacturers.

In addition to applying for a patent, NPUST wants to share their technology with other institutions and sectors in order to help save even more animals lives. NPUST has also pointed out that they are working with Taipei Medical University to produce 3D printing technology that could be used in various medical and educational fields, from manufacturing human teeth to preserving NPUST’s abundant collection of wild and rare animal bone specimens.

Department of Veterinary Radiology Director Lin Lixuan and student Guo Shirong, showing animal bones in their right hands, and 3D printed models in their left.

The NPUT’s initiative marks the country’s first animal-specific physical therapy workstation, inspired by the animal rehabilitation centers in the United States. With more and more animals being brought in with joint, ligament and nerve-related diseases, the demand for specialized treatments will surely continue to grow. In addition to the 3D printed prosthetics, the clinic will offer ultrasound, electrical stimulation and rehab treatments such as under-water treadmills in order to promote recovery and increase all animals’ quality of life.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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