Jul 18, 2016 | By Tess

Known for its signature patch of bright red skin, the red-crowned crane is one of the rarest crane species in the world and is often recognized as a symbol of good luck. Recently, one red-crowned crane came into its own bit of luck when a team of Chinese doctors were able to successfully replace its broken beak with a new 3D printed titanium implant.

Lili, a red-crowned crane from a zoo in Guangzhou, China, found herself unable to eat after breaking her upper beak in a fight with other birds. The injury, which occurred earlier this spring was treated quickly by a team of veterinarians. After some time, however, the initial surgical treatment appeared to be causing a severe infection and even necrosis of the beak. After treating the infection, doctors realized they had to do more to help the young six-year-old bird survive, especially as red-crowned cranes can live up to 50 or 60 years.

That’s when doctor Dean Wu Zijun from the Leader Animal Hospital in Guangzhou realized a prosthetic beak might be the answer. After much deliberation on the matter, and gauging whether a prosthetic beak could help the bird to regain its normal functions, the team from the Leader Animal Hospital reached out to the Guangzhou Yang Ming Technology Company, which specializes in 3D printing plastic molds, and the Additive Manufacturing laboratory at the South China University of Technology.

More specifically, the Yang Ming Technology Company was brought on for the project because its director, Chen Zi Yu, believes that technologies used to help humans can also be used for helping animals. As the company specializes in 3D printing plastic molds, however, the Additive Manufacturing lab was also brought in as a partner to help print the prosthetic beak out of a durable and strong titanium alloy, the same material used for human implants.

Over the course of the last month, the tripartite team worked on developing the best design for the red-crowned crane’s beak by studying the species’ anatomy and by creating a number of prototypes for the new beak. After testing seven versions of the beak prosthetic made from plastic, the collaborative team reached an iteration for the final design. This final model was then sent to the Additive Manufacturing laboratory, which 3D printed the titanium beak using state-of-the-art machines.

In the lead-up to the surgery, the doctors and nurses working with the red-crowned crane became sentimentally attached, even naming the bird Lili. Lili was set up comfortably in a room with hay, toys, and a fluorescent light to act as the sun. The bird underwent checkups on a daily basis and was fed loaches by nurses multiple times a day, restoring the bird to a healthy state.

The surgery for the 3D printed prosthetic beak itself took place on July 10th and was led by Dr. Wu Zijun and Dr. Xie Guanhui. With Lili sedated, the team of doctors were able to successfully implant the new 3D printed beak within just 30 minutes. When the bird awoke after the surgery, the doctors presented her with a bucket of fish, which after a few tries, she was able to catch and eat by herself. One nurse even joked that with her new titanium beak, no birds would ever try to fight Lili again.

Within the past year, a number of birds have been fortunate enough to receive 3D printed beak implants. In February, a Brazilian parrot was the first to receive a 3D printed titanium beak, but several other birds have also been implanted with plastic prosthetics.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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ashtoash wrote at 7/18/2016 5:05:58 PM:


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