Middle school students help a penguin walk again with 3D printing
This heart-warming story shows how much 3D printing can revolutionise the world. One of its latest achievements is helping a lame penguin to walk again with the help of middle school students in Connecticut.
The penguin’s name is Yellow Purple, but has been nicknamed Purps the Penguin. She is a 23-year old African penguin. Mystic Aquarium has raised Purps since she hatched from an egg. The aquarium is dedicated to inspiring people to protect the oceans and the creatures that inhabit them through conservation, education and research.
She picked up an injury to her left leg back in 2011 after getting in a fight with another bird in the exhibit. After some diagnostic tests and ultrasounds, it was found that Purps had torn a flexor tendon in her left ankle area. Experts at the aquarium decided that Purps would need a boot to support her flexor tendon.
When the boot needed replacing, the idea was proposed to used 3D printing to achieve this. Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium was a member of an education board that had just funded the purchase of a 3D printer for their local middle school, Mystic Middle School.
The middle school purchased the 3D printer from the ACT Group and met with staff at the aquarium as well as those at ACT Group to get started with the project. To create the boot previously, a cast was moulded to the penguin’s injured leg, but it was thought that 3D printing could create a better fitting, lighter weight option.
The school took a cast of Purps’ foot from the aquarium and used a 3D scanner to make a model of it. They then used a program called Geomagic Sculpt to add the finer details to the model. The aquarium said that once the 3D printed boot was fitted, Purps took off across the exam room, looking much more comfortable than she did in her old boot. It has really made a difference to her life and has got her “walking much more like a normal penguin should walk.”
The middle school students were very proud to have been a part of this project and to see how much they have helped Purps get back on her feet.