Jun 3, 2016 | By Tess

What do dogs, cats, ponies, penguins, and parrots have in common? Well, they are all species of animals that have benefited from 3D printing technologies in some way or another. The technology has been used by resourceful and determined veterinarians who are able to use additive manufacturing to create custom fitted and functional prosthetics, often helping to give the injured animals a higher quality of life. Most recently, a team from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois was able to perform a complicated orthopedic surgery on the nation’s official animal, the bald eagle, thanks to a 3D printed prosthetic bone.

The bald eagle in question was brought to the Wildlife Medical Clinic in May after having been shot by a gun a few months earlier. The gunshot had severely damaged the eagle’s humerus, which had then healed out of alignment, inhibiting the bird of prey from properly flying. Fortunately, the injured bird was left in the hands of one Dr. R. Avery Bennett, a well respected and accomplished avian surgeon who was confident he could realign the shattered bone with the help of some 3D printed models.

Before the surgery could take place, CT scans of the eagle had to be processed, a task which was done by veterinary radiologist Dr. Stephen Joslyn, who analyzed the data remotely from Australia. The shattered bone then had to be made into a 3D printable file, which was done by medical illustrator Janet Sinn-Hanlon, who was able to thicken and link certain parts of the shattered humerus. In the end, two version of the eagle’s bone were to be printed, the injured model, and the good model (the right humerus), which would serve as a point of comparison.

For the printing itself, the team of vets partnered with the University of Illinois’ College of Engineering. The process, however, did pose on challenge, as the 3D printer that was to be used to make the bones was fully booked the day before the surgery was to take place. Fortunately, Ralf Möller, the director of technical services at the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, arranged to have the bones printed overnight to be ready in time for the surgery. In the end, the eagle bones were sent to the lab’s 3D printer just after 5pm and finished printing just before midnight, a process which was supervised by undergraduate student Nick Ragano.

The surgery itself, which took place on May 5th was a success, as with the 3D printed models of the broken and healthy bones, Dr. Bennett was able to properly align and set the eagle’s humerus. The eagle is currently recovering and the hope is that the bird will once more, fly like an eagle.

Ralf Möller and Nick Ragano

This is not the first time that the College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Illinois’ Rapid Prototyping Lab have collaborated, as the lab has 3D printed a number of teaching models for the vets in training as well as other bone models to help as surgical guides.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Annette Kryske, wrote at 6/4/2016 11:06:53 PM:

How lucky some of our animals today are with people like Ralph & Nick helping to use their knowledge to save many animals who are in need of assistance. Bless you both for your hard work.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive