A 3D Printed Shell for Fred

Fred the tortoise received a 3D printed shell after a horrific fire destroyed his original. PHOTO: 3DPrint

Fred the tortoise received a 3D printed shell after a horrific fire destroyed his original. PHOTO: 3DPrint

This one’s a win for goodwill and technology, a fine example of how how ideas can traverse diverse spaces and change lives. The high cost of human prostheses has long been a challenge for amputees and people born with missing limbs, but 3D printers have begun to change that. Unlike traditional manufacturing, 3D printing can create an object in almost any shape by reading a digital model. Using cheap materials, companies and non-profits can now print simple prosthetic hands and arms for as little as $50. And animals like Grecia and Derby, and now Fred, stand to gain, too.

In Santos, São Paulo, Brazil, a tortoise named Fred has received an entire 3D printed shell as a replacement for one that he had lost in a forest fire. Fred is a Red-Footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaris), a species found in many areas of South America.

Veterinarians in Santos decided that they would use a desktop 3D printer to create a new shell for Fred, one which would protect him just as well as his original. With the help of a dentist and a graphical designer, the veterinarian team spent 3 months designing, iterating upon and 3D printing the new shell, which has now been surgically placed on the tortoise.

Fred unfortunately came down with a terrible case of pneumonia post-surgery, which prevented him from eating for about a month and a half, but in the end survived and is now doing very well with his new 3D printed shell. The shell, which was printed with the same PLA material that is found on most desktop 3D printers, has been holding up very well, although researchers are not exactly sure how long it will hold up for or if Fred will be able to be released into the wild.

Read more on what 3D printing can do for animals here.

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