3D Printing for Animals 3

Three-D printing for animals is not what you may imagine. This is because 3D technology has propelled options forward in many fields but none more so than medicine and prosthetics. Animals that were once euthanized can now be rescued and go on to live a high quality life.

There are several cases that provide empirical proof that 3D printing technology can and does help animals recover from life threatening injuries and birth defects. As you read through the stories below you may find yourself asking “why bother?” The answer is simple. Humans are not that far down the evolutionary chart from other animals. Typically if something can be done to benefit an animal it can be translated into providing human help as well.

The Duck’s Foot

One of the earliest cases reported of 3D technology helping an animal is the tale of Buttercup. Buttercup is a duck that was born with a birth defect. Her left foot was backwards. Usually a duck with a bad foot will not survive considering that they use their feet to propel them through the water where they spend the majority of their day eating and being a duck.

Minnie was Buttercup’s sister and her left foot was used as a model for a new prosthetic foot for Buttercup. The prosthetic device was used making a 3D printed mold of Minnie’s left foot. The new prosthetic device works wonderfully for Buttercup and so far he has lived happily ever after. The real moral of the story is if a 3D printing works so well for a duck imagine what it can do for a human.

Beauty’s Beak

Beauty is a majestic bald Eagle that ran into some bad luck. She was shot in the beak in Alaska. While it is possible for the beak to grow back in Beauty’s case it did not seem like it was going to happen. Beauty was rescued and was spending her days in the Birds of Prey Rescue being hand fed and watered. She was unable to preen herself and eating on her own did not seem plausible.

Many of the veterinarians that were treating Beauty suggested that she be put down because her quality of life was nil. Her handler refused and told the story of Beauty at a conference. She was approached by an engineer, Nate Calvin at the conference who thought he may be able to help. X-rays were taken and a replica of Beauty’s beak was made using the help of a 3D printer. The artificial beak was put in place after a two hour operation.

What Does It All Mean?

Beauty and Buttercup are just two examples of 3D printing for animals and in both cases their devices were prosthetic in nature. Someday in the future 3D printing could end testing on lab animals, too.

Of course there is some rather weird stuff that is going on as well. A company in California has pet printing in the works. Luckily the technology is quite some years away when you will be able to order up a pet that has the desired color and behavioral traits that you want by simply picking up the phone and ordering one.

Regardless, 3D printing for pets and other animals, when used the right way, can help our furry friends and can ultimately help us as well.

External Links

Buttercup the Duck with backwards foot gets 3D printed prosthetic

More about buttercup the duck

Beauty and the Beak

3D printing and lab animals: http://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/07/3d-printed-human-tissue-could-replace-animal-testing/

A Dog’s Brain Tumor Meets 3D Printing


Photo credits:


Young Kwak/AP


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “3D Printing for Animals

  • Mandy

    These examples of prosthetics are wonderful, but even better is the idea that 3D printing could do away with animal testing. If companies could simply test products on synthetic parts that approximate animal/human systems, that would be a benefit to everyone. I look forward to learning more about the diverse possibilities of 3D printing.

  • bree

    So I can have a dog that isn’t as annoying as every little one that I see and still has the traits of “man’s best friend”? That could be a good thing and although I am not usually on board with cloning animals, I think the 3d printing might be acceptable.

    • Kevin Post author

      You’re correct to draw the distinction between 3D printing and cloning as they are not the same. Researchers say we will probably never be able to 3D print a human brain since it’s too complex with too many neural connections. As for prosthetics for animals, additive printing is already being used in this capacity and I believe this will be a area of much growth in the future.