Animal Rescue Group Creates a 3D-Printed Shell for Injured Tortoise


In early 2015, a badly injured tortoise was found alongside a road in Brazil. She had survived a fire, but most of her shell was melted away. Now, thanks to a volunteer animal rescue group and a 3D printer, the reptile has a new, custom-made prosthetic to shield her body, ABC News reports.

Animal Avengers—the team that designed and attached Freddy’s new shell—consists of a designer, four veterinarians, and a dental surgeon. Together, they work to save injured animals by making 3D-printed prosthetics that replace damaged or missing limbs.

“We first came together as friends because of our common love of science and our love for animals,” Roberto Fecchio, one of the Sao Paulo-based group’s vets, told The Daily Mail. “We soon realized we could do some extraordinary work using cutting-edge technology to push back the boundaries of life-saving care for mutilated animals by giving them customized prostheses."

Freddy—who was named after the main antagonist of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) because her back was so blistered and burnt— was the first animal that the newly formed group decided to help. The team took about 40 photographs of Freddy from all angles and compared the images of her shell-less form to photos of an intact tortoise. Then, they used computer programming to create a 3D model of a new shell, Brazilian news outlet Fantastico reports.

Layer by layer, the printer churned out four large shell sections using a corn-based plastic, which the Animal Avengers surgically attached to Freddy to create a full exoskeleton. To provide Freddy with extra camouflage, a Brazilian artist even gave the prosthetic a coat of natural-looking brown paint.

The procedure was a success. According to 9News, Freddy now lives with Rabello, and is in good health. However, the lucky tortoise isn’t the only creature to benefit from the Animal Avengers’ creative technology. Since saving Freddy, the Animal Avengers have 3D printed artificial beaks for three toucans, a parrot, a goose, and a macaw, The Daily Mail reports.

Animal prosthetics are pricey, and not all models are a perfect fit. Since 3D printers can create an object in almost any shape from a digital model at a relatively low price, people are starting to use them to create artificial body parts for animals who wouldn’t have otherwise survived in the wild. In the past few years, tech-savvy humanitarians around the globe have 3D printed a set of webbed feet for a duck after it lost its real ones to frostbite, a new jaw for a sea turtle after it collided with a boat’s propeller, and a replacement beak for an injured toucan in Costa Rica.

Check out Freddy's new shell in the video above, courtesy of ABC News.

Banner image courtesy of YouTube