Apr 17, 2016 | By Alec

The most revolutionary applications of 3D printing technology can be found in academic hospitals around the world, where numerous patients have already received life-changing and sometimes even life-saving 3D printed prostheses and implants. These medical solutions can not only be used by us humans, but also our animal companions. Gray Kid, a lucky parrot can now eat normally again, after receiving a 3D printed beak at the Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo in China.

Gray Kid isn’t the first animal to receive a 3D printed implant or prosthetic, but it is still quite a rare thing. He is now part of a select group of animals, that also includes Fred the tortoise and Derby the dog, who have all received custom-made, 3D printed implants or prosthetics that give them a chance at a normal life.

And in Gray Kid’s case, a normal life was almost completely out of the question. Though a very handsome parrot, his beak was recently almost completely destroyed. Gray Kid lives at the Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo in China with a flock of his species, but unfortunately gang fights sometimes happen among parrots. During one of those fights, Gray Kid lost most of his beak. And that damage was more than just cosmetic, as breeder Liu Wei revealed. Gray Kid was left unable to pick up big pieces of fruit and could not chew on nuts at all. The unfortunate bird could only eat crushed foods by licking it up with his tongue, but without a beak he couldn’t defend his meals from greedy companions either. “If this situation continued, it would have definitely threatened his health and even his life,” Liu Wei said.

Fortunately, 3D printing offered a solution. The Hongshan Zoo animal hospital veterinarian Cheng Wang Kun began looking into a 3D printing solution, and fortunately the Nanjing Additive Manufacturing Research Institute caught wind of that idea. They offered to sponsor a 3D printed beak for Gray Kid. As Cheng Wang Kun explained, they brought another, healthy parrot to the research institute for 3D scanning, giving the 3D printing specialists a good notion of the dimensions of the necessary beak replacement.

That 3D scanning data was used to design a customized 3D printable beak, which was completed and 3D printed in resin within just a day. Though the 3D printed beak was ready to go, it could not be installed so easily. Gray Kid’s beak suffered from irregular shedding, preventing the surgeons from simply screwing it on. They therefore had to adjust the shape of the 3D printed beak slightly. The anesthetized bird was subsequently brought into the operating room. “We connected the 3D printed beak to the remnants of the original beak successfully, and then fixed it into place with a bone nail,” the surgeon explained. All in all, the procedure only took about thirty minutes.

But the worries were not quite over yet. As Liu Wei explained, there was still a good chance that Gray Kid rejected the prosthesis. To everyone’s surprise, the bird did not display any self-mutilating behavior, nor did he try to destroy or damage the new beak. In fact, he was very careful with it, and within just two days Gray Kid was seen flexibly using it to eat and drink alongside a companion. He looked, they say, comfortable. The 3D printed beak and the gray bone nail were very noticeable, but the companion bird also did not attack or bully the recovering Gray Kid. Perhaps he felt a bit guilty?

This 3D printing solution thus seems to be a complete success, which is even more remarkable as it is the first time Hongshan Zoo used 3D printing as an animal health solution. They have already hinted that this positive experience has convinced them to use advanced technologies more often in the future, if it can benefit the animals.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Are they color blind wrote at 4/18/2016 12:12:49 AM:

They could have at least used black filament to match the rest of the beak!, pore thing will be a social outcast.

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