For those following the rising use of 3D printing for prosthetic replacements, you may have noticed that humans aren’t the only ones benefiting from these constant breakthroughs in 3D printed assistive devices. There is a vast variety of both domesticated and wild animals who have overcome their injuries and deformities thanks to 3D printed prosthetics. Last year, two Brazilian toucans had their broken beaks replaced with a 3D printed replica within the same week as one another, allowing the colorful birds to eat, sing, and live a normal life once more. Now, another devastatingly injured toucan is receiving a new lease on life thanks to a 3D printed beak, this time in Costa Rica’s ZooAve animal rescue center.
For about a year now, Grecia (Spanish for ‘Greece’) the toucan has been struggling with a completely maimed upper beak, which was broken in an awful assault by a group of thoughtless teenagers. Causing an uproar in the local Costa Rican community, an Indiegogo project was soon launched to help repair Grecia’s upper beak, which was quickly funded well past the set goal (closing out with over $10,000). The ZooAve team received assistance from four Costa Rican companies – Elementos 3D, Ewa!corps, Publicidad Web, and Grupo Summerus – all of whom came together to design and 3D print an upper beak replacement for the unfortunate toucan.
“It was a very ambitious project which participated various national companies nonprofit, to give Grecia the best possible quality of life prosthesis,” ZooAve states on their Facebook page. “For several months analyzed, designed and fastening it was studied, where we learned a lot about the importance of peak Grecia.”
Though the exact material and 3D printer used is not clear, the beak is likely made from ABS or PLA material. In order to ensure the survival of Grecia, the project collaborators had to design the beak to be both lightweight and sturdy. In order to equip the prosthetic beak safely to Grecia, the team had to use screws instead of a possibly harmful chemical adhesive. It seems to have been a time-consuming, but worthwhile endeavor by these Costa Rican altruists, ultimately saving the life of a toucan who had to deal with the consequences of the darker side of humanity (and teenage stupidity).
Now, according to the ZooAve animal rescue center, Grecia is singing, playing, eating, and living like a toucan should. And, although a 3D printed upper beak may not be a natural part of the toucan’s tropical physique, to me it adds even more unique flavor to an already colorful and wondrous bird.