3D Printing

RoboTurtle Receives Species' 1st 3D Printed Jaw Implant

3D printing has had its fair share of heart-warming stories, but among the most touching applications of the technology has to be in the field of animal rescue. The latest such story comes from Turkey where 3D printing service provider BTech Innovation helped in the repair of a sea turtle’s upper and lower jaws.

3D printed titanium beak for sea turtle

As Turkey’s “first private R&D corporation” and a medical 3D printing company, BTech has 3D printed its fair share of projects, particularly patient-specific implants, but this was a unique patient for the firm. After the sea turtle was wounded by a boat propeller, a team found it floating in the sea, nearly lifeless, before bringing it to the Dalyan Iztuzu Pamukkale University (PAU), Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. There, the team attended to its wounds and subsequently nursed it back to health, feeding it by hand.

3D printed jaw implant for sea turtle

It was then that the PAU volunteers reached out to BTech to explore the possibility of 3D printing a custom beak for the poor creature. With BTech CEO Kuntay AKTAŞ deciding to provide all of their services for free, BTech converted the aquatic patient’s CT scans into 3D models using Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite. Together with veterinarians and surgeons, the team designed a replica of the turtle’s beak. Recreating the powerful upper and lower jaws of the 45-kg turtle in Materialise’s 3-matic software was no easy process, with BTech relying on finite element and movement analysis to ensure a proper design.

3D printed jaw implant for sea turtle surgery

After receiving approval from the medical team, the resulting design was 3D printed in medical-grade titanium and airmailed to the surgical team. Soon an arduous surgery, closely watched by a large audience of physicians, led to the first successful implant of a 3D printed turtle jaw.

btech 3D prints beak prosthetsPresently receiving antibiotics, the sea turtle is recovering from surgery back at the rehab center, where the BTech team even got to see the implant attached to the moving jaw of their patient. Once their sea-faring friend is fully healed, the rehab team plans to release it back in the wild.

Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? It’d be better if animals weren’t injured by human activities, but it’s gotten to the point where Materialise could probably branch out from medical 3D printing software and services into veterinary medicine.  And, thankfully, there are an increasing number of such companies as BTech that are equipped to get this sort of work done. A Turkish video detailing the story is embedded below, but you don’t have to speak Turkish to understand just how nice life can be sometimes.