We’ve already known for a while that 3D printing is very helpful for making arm and hand prosthesis in all shapes and sizes. But who says only humans should get the benefit of this existing technology? Fortunately more animals that have lost their limbs are also benefitting from this 3D printing technology.
There’s something deeply fulfilling about nurturing our pets and watching them experiencing joy as they catch a Frisbee or jump up on the bed with you to say hello after you’ve had a long day. And while we’ve all seen a number of three-legged dogs get by in the world, it’s an obvious challenge which presents limits.
Now it seems like six year old terrier mix from Sacramento, ‘Hobbes’ is going to get the benefit from this 3D printing technology. Hobbes has only 3 legs, he can play around and explores things like all other dogs. He is a very happy dog, he can climb stairs, graze the backyard and even jump onto the bed of his owner, Andrea Bledsoe. She explains happy Hobbes had a very sad past. Hobbes was a homeless dog with his front leg broken. “The break didn’t heal properly and the veterinary surgeons were forced to amputate his leg, Andrea said. Bledsoe was working in the vet clinic at that time when she met this little pet.
“When he goes on long walks, he starts to get fatigued, and it seems that it’s because he has this weird hop he has to do to move forward,” said Carney, a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry and molecular medicine. “And he’s so young and full of energy that it seemed like a waste if he couldn’t get moving like he wanted to.”Therefore Bledsoe and two of her fellow UC Davis graduate students are now determined to make 3D printed prosthetic leg for him.
Together with veterinary students, the trio has set out to develop the leg which isn’t as straight forward as everyone might think. Ofcourse 3D printing a leg prosthetic is always more complicated than a hand version, as it needs to be capable of supporting all the weight and resist quite a lot of pressures and surfaces.
The trio came up with a harness design that can be attached to the dog’s chest. The harness itself is made out of plastic, and heated to perfectly bend around Hobbes body. While the leg is still strictly in progress, the team is hoping to make a flexible prosthetic with spring back capacity, so Hobbes can actually run well. To do so they are currently experimenting with Ninja Flex Filament, though its currently not yet known if it will work.
While they were originally looking into carbon fiber molding, the team eventually settled for 3D printing technology because it is far more affordable. They could even use a free to use 3D printer at the Arcade library in sacramento. “It’s extremely exciting to me, and much more exciting than studying at this point,” Abney said. “It’s nice to get hands on and try to help an animal, instead of sitting at home and learning about helping an animal all the time”. With a bit of luck, Hobbes will be running everywhere in just few months.