Jun 2, 2016 | By Faith

There’s no doubt that the development of prosthesis for animals has been made easier by 3D scanning and printing technology, but what’s more is that the tech has enabled some fascinating design collaborations in order to do so. The Art Institute of Colorado and the Denver Animal Shelter have teamed together to work on “The Sonic Project”: an ongoing team effort in order to better the life of Sonic, a four-month old kitten after whom the initiative has been named.

Born with an abnormal front right leg, Sonic’s chances of living life like a normal domestic cat seemed limited. His inability to run and jump left the owners of the kitten with very few options – and sadly, amputation and possibly euthanizing looked to be the only potential solutions to better Sonic’s life. However, a recent collaboration (Since April 2016) between some of Denver's finest in the arts and sciences looked towards 3D printing as a possible option to literally support the kitten not only through the development stages of its young life and growth, but also throughout Sonic’s future.

“Instead of having two bones in the forearm, he only has one bone. That’s why it’s kind of flopping around,” Dr. Louisa Poon with the Denver Animal Shelter said. “The whole goal of the project is to actually fit a prosthesis so that he’s able to use the leg and bear weight on it.”

 (Image credit: Andy Cross / THE DENVER POST)

A custom prosthetic – with an end goal of being as close to a real limb as possible - has been designed to help the kitten live a normal life. Such an outcome would be ideal for Sonic, who "has quite a bit of spirit” according to Gregg Harvey, a professor from the Art Institute who is leading part of the project. For the Denver Animal Shelter, such a partnership is invaluable in terms of seeing the animals they care for be given better odds for a happy existence. "For other animals with these deformities, especially when it affects both front legs, they're not adoptable and we usually have to euthanize”, says Poon. “So hopefully we can learn from this and we can make them adoptable again."

 (Image credit: CBS)

The opportunity that Sonic’s deformity has presented could go on to support disabled animals around the world – and it’s a trial that’s proving to be a little more labour-intensive than expected. Sonic himself is growing at the fast rate that any domestic cat is expected to develop – and the team behind his 3D printed prosthetic development are having a hard time keeping up with the fittings around his deformed front leg and paw. Salim Fermin, a design and technical graphics student at The Art Institute of Colorado confirmed the difficulties: “the biggest challenge is having to wait until he reaches his full size to create the final (model)”, which staff predicts will take another two or three months.

Each model takes around two to three days to manufacture, and as the kitten grows, each prosthetic changes. Of course, it’s a common challenge when dealing with scale-to-life products, but the learning that the team and ‘The Sonic Project’ collective will gain form the process look to be extremely important. Of course, the 3D printing of prosthesis for animals is not a new phenomenon. Ever since Buttercup the duckling broke the internet with news of his 3D printed webbed foot back in 2013, public understanding of vetinary uses for 3D printing has only risen. However, what’s perhaps most important here is that through the trialling of such projects, professional understanding will only develop in sync – providing even more opportunity to change animal lives around the world for good.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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