Jul 18, 2016 | By Tess

3D printing technologies have once again come to the aid of an animal in need, this time in the form of a 3D printed orthotic boot for Purps, an endangered African penguin with a lame leg. The effort to help the animal was brought to fruition through a collaboration between the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, where Purps is resident, the Mystic Middle School, and ACT Group, a local supplier of 3D Systems 3D printers.

A resident of the Mystic Aquarium, Purps injured her left leg a number of years ago after getting into a fight with another penguin. After examining the injury, veterinarians from the aquarium found that Purps had actually torn her flexor tendon in her ankle and would not be able to walk normally again. Since the incident, and despite a number of different attempts to handcraft a suitable support boot for the penguin (a very time consuming process), Purps has never fully regained the ability to walk and move as normal penguins do.

That’s where 3D printing comes in. After hearing about the design and manufacturing potentials of the emerging technology, the team of veterinarians from the Mystic Aquarium decided to reach out to their partners at the local Mystic Middle School, which had just received its first 3D Systems printer through ACT Group. A group of students were briefed on the penguin’s injury and what type of boot would be necessary for Purps to walk again. Then, under the guidance of Sue Prince, the library media specialist at the school, they got to work creating a fitting solution.

To help better acquaint themselves with the technology and its potentials, Mystic Middle School reached out to ACT Group for advice on how to best design the boot and what printer to make it on. Seeing potential in the project, not only to help the penguin in need, but to help educate children about additive manufacturing and 3D modeling, ACT Group became a partner and offered the students educational workshops, as well as access to 3D Systems’ multi-material ProJet MJP 5500X 3D printer.

In the end, the students from Mystic Middle School were able to successfully design a boot based off of a cast of Purps’ injured foot. The process involved a number of steps including scanning the cast with a Geomatic Capture 3D Scanner to generate a digital model of it, and modifying the digital design to create the boot model. The 3D modeling was done using 3D Systems’ Geomatic Sculpt software. The final boot was printed as a single piece from a variety of flexible and rigid materials that resulted in a custom-fitted, lightweight, durable, and functional assistive device.

“The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination and intuitiveness led this process,” said Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing and Applications Engineer, ACT Group. “It was rewarding to provide them with a technology that could keep up with their ingenuity, and to watch them pick up the software so quickly. It further demonstrates the need to have students learning to digitally design and manufacture at a younger age.”

According to the students and team at the Mystic Aquarium, when Purps was fitted with her new 3D printed boot, she was able to walk much more easily that with her previous, heavier boot and ran around with it on with ease. The moment of seeing the African penguin regain mobility thanks to the 3D printed boot they had designed was both exciting and inspiring for the young students who made the project a reality.

“Our goal is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research,” said Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation at the Mystic Aquarium. “In this project we achieved each of these desired outcomes while benefiting the health and well being of one of our endangered species.”

Sue Prince echoed that sentiment saying, “This project not only helped a member of an endangered species, but gave our students a hands-on understanding of the 3D printing process and how to carry an idea through from a concept to a design to a usable object.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


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