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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

3D Printing Technology: Working Wonders for Animals, Part 1 of 2

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Three-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that builds 3D objects by layering materials one by one from a digital file. Compared to conventional manufacturing, including injection molding and subtractive production, 3D printing is more cost-effective as it doesn’t require expensive molds. It also uses less material, energy and labor, generates less waste, and is faster for both production and revision. One of the most exciting and game-changing 3D printing application fields is veterinary medicine. Thanks to 3D printing technologies, these animals now have a much greater chance of living an extended and healthy life. In December 2014, a young male chestnut-mandibled toucan named Grecia in Costa Rica was a tragic victim of animal abuse and lost the upper half of his beautiful beak. Grecia accepted the artificial beak made of special nylon, and he has become a happy bird. He shook off his depression and quickly learned to use his new beak to bathe, eat and preen himself. In July 2019, Lorraine Young noticed her beloved Andy, a seven-year-old dachshund, was unable to walk on all four legs. Andy became the first canine patient with this disease to benefit from 3D printing technology. The veterinary team created an exact 3D printed replica of Andy’s spine from his CT scan images. As the 3D model could bend and move like Andy’s actual spine, doctors could examine it and decide how to proceed during the operation. Andy’s operation and recovery went very well: When Lorraine went to visit him with some family members a few days after the procedure, Andy ran to them – wobbly, but wagging his tail and giving kisses to everyone’s delight.
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