Since Anderson’s success with Derby, animal rescue groups all over the world have used 3-D printing. People have created hooves, wings, beaks, and other body parts for injured animals (see “How Freddy Got Her Shell Back,” below).
Before 3-D printing, prosthetic animal limbs were made only by hand. The process could take months, and sometimes the new body part didn’t fit. Plus, the materials used were expensive. But 3-D printing uses inexpensive materials like plastic. A limb can be printed for as little as $50.
3-D printing also makes it easier to create customized limbs. Derby had unique problems. He was used to walking low to the ground, on his elbows. So he needed short legs at first. Plus, Anderson wanted to make sure the legs didn’t get stuck in the ground.
“I could design and print something out in a couple of days,” says Anderson. “If it didn’t work, no time was really lost.”
Anderson is still trying out new designs for Derby. Last year, once Derby had gotten used to the curved legs, she made him a taller pair. She says 3-D printing is sure to give many more animals a better life.
“It’s really a game-changer technology for everyone,” Anderson says.