Student builds 3D prostheses for injured dogs that give them new life

It took only 15 minutes for one of the dogs to adjust to his new prosthetic limb.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Labrador Leto on his first walk with the 3D printed prosthesis.Zortrax

Last November, a British patient received the world's first-ever 3D printed prosthetic eye. With 3D printed prosthetic technologies advancing at the rate they are, it's not surprising to hear of another ingenious use of the process. 

Now, a Polish manufacturer of 3D printers, Zortrax Inventure, has reported the story of student Maciej Szczepański, who designs and builds 3D printed prostheses for injured dogs. These new prosthetic limbs offer disabled dogs a new lease on life.

3D printed prostehtics

Szczepański's adventures in 3D printing began when he noticed that the usage of animal prostheses in Poland was not as popular as, for example, in the United States. Szczepański then took it upon himself to help many needy animals. “I wanted to create prostheses that would improve the quality of life of an animal that will be using it," said Szczepański.

His two first patients were Sonia and Leto, two dogs that had been the victims of tragic traffic accidents. To help these adorable creatures, Szczepański began his project by using alginate, a naturally occurring, edible polysaccharide found in brown algae, to make an impression of the dogs' stumps which he then filled with a special ceramic plaster.

A three-day process

It was this plaster that the ambitious student then scanned in order to prepare a digital 3D model of the prosthetic limb. The whole process from beginning to end took him no more than three days. “Thanks to 3D printing, I was able to create the tailored prostheses that suited the pet’s special needs," said Szczepański. "I don’t have to outsource this work anymore."  

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What was left now was to attach these prostheses to the dogs. Szczepański used screws for this last step and even carefully placed a cloth inside the prosthetic limb to increase the dogs' comfort level.

It only took a mere 15 minutes for Leto to get used to his new prosthetic implant and to start walking as if he had four agile legs. It's clear that these prostheses are giving disabled dogs the range of motion they once had and that is something to celebrate. 3D printing has made many strides over the years, achieving much in the process, but this may be one of its cutest uses yet.

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