Jul 18, 2017 | By Tess

A group of dedicated eighth-grade students from Portsmouth, New Hampshire has 3D printed a wheelchair for a kitten with mobility problems. The six-month-old cat, a Maine coon named Ray, was born with eyes too small to see and a spinal condition that makes it impossible for him to move his hind legs.

Ray was adopted by Carrie Barron, who came across the kitten at the Odd Cat Sanctuary in Salem, Massachusetts. In spite of the cat's condition, Barron was charmed by the kitten’s spunk and undeniable cuteness.

It was Barron’s neighbor, Erin Bakkom, a school teacher at Portsmouth Middle School, who suggested that her students design and 3D print a wheelchair to help give Ray some extra mobility. The project was meant to be both helpful for the kitten and educational for the students.

Bakkom’s eighth-grade students were put into two teams, each of which was tasked with designing and 3D printing a cat-friendly wheelchair. The students worked in cooperation with the local public library, which houses a 3D printer that is open to the community.

Michaela Pugh, a technology assistant at the Portsmouth Public Library, expressed her enthusiasm about the project to ABC news, saying: "I was obviously very excited when [Bakkom] emailed me. This is what our goal was, to have people come up with real world applications and it gave us a chance to work with students and help them with their designs so they could see the whole 3D printing design and redesign process.”

Last month, right before the summer holidays kicked off, the two teams of students brought their 3D printed wheelchair prototypes to Ray so he could try them on for size. Both designs consisted of a 3D printed frame and wheels taken from a Razor scooter.

When fitted with the first 3D printed wheelchair, Ray did not take to it immediately, as he started playing with it as though it were a toy. Of course, it will likely take the kitten some time to adjust to being in a wheelchair. Barron is confident he will adapt eventually.

"We have been working with Ray and getting him more comfortable with the wheelchair,” she said. “We are working to modify it a bit as the initial design allowed him to pivot, but we are hoping to have the modified chair ready very soon.”

More recently, Ray tested out an updated prototype of a wheelchair with four wheels instead of two. In an attempt to escape from this wheelchair prototype, Ray managed to break a piece of it off. These hurdles, said Pugh, are all part of the process.

Whether it takes Ray a couple hours or many days to get accustomed to using a 3D printed wheelchair, Barron, Bakkom, and Pugh all see the experience as a positive one. "The experience of watching the students connect and create something for Ray was very impactful for both Erin and I,” commented Barron. “In many shelters Ray would likely have been euthanized. He's an incredibly special guy who is very happy and loves life.”

If Ray’s story tugged at your heart strings, you can follow the kitten’s journey via his Instagram.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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