Jan 13, 2016 | By Kira
Just one year after a cruel and horrific assault on a defenseless toucan in Costa Rica left it without most of its upper beak, that same bird has had its life, and its singing voice, restored thanks to a 3D printed prosthetic beak. Photos released by the ZooAve animal rescue center in Costa Rica show Grecia looking better than ever with a brand new and perfectly-shaped 3D printed beak that has given the bird a second lease on life.
We reported on Grecia almost exactly one year ago when the first proposals were made to 3D print a prosthetic toucan beak. Within a few weeks, a crowdfunding campaign to fund the injured bird’s prosthetic had raised more than $7,000 (by the end of the month, it closed with a staggering $10,500), proving just how many people from around the world this story had affected.
You see, it’s one thing for an animal to be injured in the wild by their natural predators, for example. Yet for Grecia, there was nothing natural about the attack. Local news outlets reported that a group of senseless teenagers had struck Grecia with a stick while the bird was feeding, breaking most of its upper beak.
The gruesome injury left Grecia unable to eat or stay balanced. Toucans also rely on their beaks to preen, defend themselves, and make mating calls—without their beaks, toucans have no chance at survival in the wild. The ZooAve animal sanctuary also reported that since the attack, Grecia has lost the ability to sing.
The horrific attack sparked national and international outcry. Costa Rican Presdient Luis Guillermo Solís even went so far as to cite the attack as a reason to pass an animal cruelty bill that would increase fines and would authorize prison sentences between one and six years for the intentional harming, torture or killing of an animal or making a spectacle of the former. The bill is currently still pending in the Legislative Assembly.
Luckily, thanks to 3D scanning and 3D printing technology, 3D printing experts were able to reconstruct Grecia’s upper beak almost to perfection. Toucans have distinctly large, colorful beaks that can be as big as half the size of their body. Despite their size however, they are very lightweight. This is because they are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and nails.
In order to ensure that the 3D printed prosthetic beak would not just look okay, but actually enable Grecia to once again eat, sing, and fly, the 3D printing experts had to design it so that it was at once solid and lightweight, with both a fixed part and a movable joint that could be replaced to compensate for the bird’s growth.
Nelson Martinez, a 3D designer who worked on the project, added that using chemical adhesives could harm the bird or compromise the structure of the beak. Therefore, the designers had to consider using screws. Another factor influencing the designers and animal rescue shelter was time: the gruesome wound had to finish healing before the prosthetic could be applied.
In the end, four local Costa Rican 3D printing companies stepped forward to help: Elementos 3D, Ewa!corps, Publicidad Web and Grupo Summerus. Alongside the ongoing care and support from ZooAve, they were able to successfully complete the lifesaving operation.
“For us, this has been a success,” said ZooAve today. “The process was not easy. It was a very ambitious process that required the cooperation of several national companies who participated without financial profit, in order to provide Grecia with the best possible prosthetic, and the best quality of life.”
“Over the course of several months, we analyzed, designed and studied the bird, and we learned much about the importance of Grecia’s beak. The beak fulfills various functions, including preening, feeding, and drawing the attention of the opposite sex, but it also affected part Grecia’s psychology. This prosthetic gives the chance to have a normal life, within its possibilities.”
“This is the news we need to see every day!” said a commenter on ZooAve’s Facebook page. “And that makes me feel that there is still hope. A whole year of work and effort to ensure that a living being such as Grecia could move forward after such an unfortunate event. National pride to everyone who worked on this noble work!”
The ZooAve animal rescue shelter also confirmed that thanks to the 3D printed prosthetic beak, Grecia is once again singing loud and proud, just like a happy and healthy toucan should.
To see more heartwarming stories of how 3D printing has helped to save or improve the quality of animals' lives, check out Tumbles, the adorable puppy who received a 3D printed wheelchair, Cassidy, a two-legged kitten who also got a 3D printed set of wheels, or Derby the dog, whose 3D printed prosthetic legs have him up and running again.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Philton wrote at 2/29/2016 12:52:51 PM:
They could had paint it, to look more realistic in the wild...