Aug 23, 2016 | By Alec

Remember Grecia the Toucan from Costa Rica? At the beginning of the year, this unfortunate bird received a new chance at life thanks to a 3D printed prosthetic beak – after its own was destroyed by local teenagers who attacked Grecia with a stick. Fortunately, mankind showed its best side after Grecia was brought to the ZooAve Rescue Center in Costa Rica, and a crowdfunding campaign managed to raise enough funds to build a prosthetic beak. Tomorrow, Grecia’s story will be told in the Animal Planet documentary Toucan Nation and to coincide with that story, 3D Systems has just revealed more details about how they completed this challenging 3D printing project.

The story of Grecia is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. In December 2014, the severely injured Toucan bird was brought to the animal rescue center ZooAve in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The bird, who came from the forest of Grecia, was completely missing one-half of its top beak. It was later discovered by Costa Rican news outlets that a group of teenagers had hit the defenseless bird with a stick and had caused the severe injury. It was a particularly severe situation that left Grecia unable care for itself. For Toucans rely on their beaks to regulate their body temperatures, to preen, defend themselves, and make mating calls. Without their beaks, toucans have no chance at survival in the wild, and most birds in such a state are simply put out of their misery.

Fortunately, the web quickly jumped to the rescue. We first reported on Grecia in January 2015, 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 $10,500, showing just how many people cared. And earlier this year we were very happy to report that Grecia was looking better than ever with a brand new and perfectly-shaped 3D printed beak that has given the bird a second lease on life. More importantly, it is sparking a worldwide animal welfare debate that could hopefully realize some serious attitude changes.

But Grecia’s beak project was not without its problems, as 3D Systems revealed. In the end, four local Costa Rican 3D printing companies stepped forward to help ZooAve: Elementos 3D, Ewa!corps, Publicidad Web and Grupo SG. The latter is a 3D systems partner and reseller, 3D Systems itself helped to devise the custom prosthetic that was eventually manufactured and screwed in place – which required them to wait for the wound to heal.

As 3D Systems explained, a whole team of Costa Rican product designers, dentists and nanotechnology experts were brought in on this collaborative project, and gave advise on the best available materials and technology – to not only ensure a perfect fit but also to prevent poisoning. “In addition to fitting Grecia’s residual anatomy, the beak needed to be strong, biocompatible and have a smooth surface finish that would not promote contamination or encourage bacteria growth,” they explained. In the end, they settled on DuraForm ProX PA plastic, which can be 3D printed on 3D Systems’ ProX SLS 500 3D printer.

To actually design the beak prosthesis, Grupo SG made 3D scans of what was left of Grecia’s beak, and of the beak of an unharmed toucan for reference. These were subsequently passed on to 3D Systems, who reverse engineered an attachable prosthetic designed for comfort. “Using Geomagic Wrap software, [we] transformed the 3D scan data into feature-based CAD models,” they said, adding that the models were subsequently imported into Geomagic Freeform for organic modeling. After inspection using Geomagic Control, the final model was 3D printed.

The completed prosthetic was particularly well balanced, and was attached to Grecia a few weeks later. Industrial designer Alfredo González Singleton, who worked on the project, said he had never been faced with such a design problem but was very pleased with both the process and the results. “To be able to join the knowledge with the need using this technology is just fabulous,” Singleton said.

3D Systems’ CTO Chuck Hull was also very pleased to see how flexible their design structure was when accommodating such an unusual, but important project. “The flexibility of our end-to-end digital manufacturing workflow is critical in these kinds of applications that venture into uncharted territory,” he said. “We are delighted our technology could play such an impactful and beneficial role to help this cause.”

According to all reports, Grecia is currently living, preening and eating without assistance and is a very popular resident at the ZooAve Rescue Center in Costa Rica. If you want to see for yourself, be sure to tune in to Animal Planet for the Toucan Nation documentary, airing Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 10PM ET/P.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Sarah Sweet wrote at 5/21/2017 5:27:08 PM:

This is amazing work! Thank you all so much for your efforts in helping this ZToucan have a better chance at survival. Your dedication and incredible work is admirable.

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