A team of veterinarians and 3D printing experts from the Renato Archer Technology and Information Center (CTI) in Campinas, Brazil have successfully implanted the world’s first metal 3D printed beak on a bright blue and yellow macaw. The bird, named Gigi, was rescued from captivity and found with severe deformations on her beak that prevented her from feeding herself, yet just days after the surgery, she is already well-adapted and able to eat solid foods.
This great 3D printing medical success was the result of a team effort by veterinary surgeon Roberto Fecchio, 3D designer and facial reconstruction specialist Cicero Moraes, and veterinary dentist Paul Miamoto. This self-described team of “Avengers” from the Animal Care Center in Ipiranga, Sao Paulo, has been pioneering the use of 3D printing technology to save the lives of wild animals. Previously, they 3D printed a new shell for Freddy the tortoise, as well as a beak for an injured toucan, both of which were 3D printed in PLA plastic.
For this case, however, the team decided to perform a world first: a prosthetic beak 3D printed in titanium, rather than plastic. Macaws use their beaks to break open seeds and other hard shells, meaning they must be extremely durable and strong. Along with being biocompatible, lightweight, and rust-resistant, titanium is one of the strongest metals on Earth, making it the perfect material for this job.
Miamoto began by taking a series of photographs of the bird, which Moraes then converted into a digital 3D model using a specialized Blender add-on designed by Dalai Felinto at the request of Dr. Everton da Rosa. Experts at CTI then used the 3D model to 3D print a custom-fitted titanium beak.
The surgery, which took place on Thursday, February 18 at the Animal Care center in Sao Paulo, was performed by veterinarians Roberto Fecchio, Sergio Camargo, Rodrigo Rabello and Methus Rabello. The 3D printed prosthetic was attached using bone cement and orthopaedic screws. “Just 48 hours after the surgery, Gigi is already showing great adaptation to the prosthetic!” wrote the Center for Research and Screening of Wild Animals at Unimonte University, where Gigi is recovering. “It is extremely rewarding to return the quality of life to an animal, and after seeing the before and after picture, there is a huge sense of accomplishment.”
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