A Wounded Turtle Got a 3-D Printed Upgrade and a New Lease on Life

Source: YouTube
Source: YouTube

After a boat propeller sliced off a sea turtle's lower jaw and most of its snout, animal rescuers found the creature drifting nearly lifeless in the water in Turkey. The turtle was sent to a rehabilitation center where it recovered, but needed to be fed by hand to stay alive. Now, thanks to a Turkish 3-D printing firm, the turtle can eat independently again: It's the proud new owner of a titanium beak.

The sea turtle after its rescue.
Source: 
BTech Innovation/Facebook

BTech, the 3-D printing firm, agreed to use the 100-pound animal's CT scans at the Dalyan Iztuzu Pamukkale University Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to create three-dimensional models for the animal's upper and lower jaw. With a team of surgeons and veterinarians, they were able to design a metal replacement that wouldn't encumber the turtle's eating and movement. After a long surgery, the team was able to install the replacement section of the beak, creating the first-ever 3-D printed replacement turtle jaw.

Source: Mic/YouTube

BTech's beak makes the turtle look like an awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain. It also makes it possible for the animal to eat and sustain itself alone rather than relying on humans for support.

Source: YouTube

Tech helping animals in need: This isn't the first time 3-D printing was used to help return an animal to an unassisted life. Last year, a dog named Derby was fitted with 3-D printed prosthetic legs to help him run again.

Source: YouTube

Derby, who was born with deformed front legs, used a set of wheels to get around, but they were cumbersome and restricted his range of motion. Derby's foster mother — and director of CJP Product Management at 3D Systems — Tara Anderson, along with a team of colleagues and an animal orthopedist, created a set of legs based on a loop design, which wouldn't get stuck in the mud and would have enough give to run.

And they worked.

Source: Mic/YouTube

While the advances in human prosthetics are constantly evolving, animal prosthetics are based on much simpler designs and can be implemented more cheaply. A few other animals are sporting 3-D prosthetics. This turtle, for example, has a 3-D printed shell:

Source: YouTube

Buttercup the duck gets around with a 3-D printed foot.

Source: YouTube

Last but not least, meet the Chihuahua with a 3-D printed roller cart.

Source: YouTube

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Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

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