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Middle School Students Design and 3D Print an Orthotic Boot for an Injured Penguin

by • July 17, 2016 • No Comments


Purps with Mystic Aquarium’s Dr. Jen Flower

Who does not love a penguin? I’m certain there’s someone out there with a distaste for penguins, but I don’t understand them. Penguins are endearing, and the good results of films like March of the Penguins or Happy Feet is evidence of our culture-spanning adoration of the fat, waddling, flightless birds. Unfortunately, penguins don’t always ponder as highly of other penguins as we do, and a case of penguin-on-penguin violence at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut resulted in one poor little penguin hobbling around with an injured flexor tendon.

Yellow/Purple, aka Purps, is one of a group of endangered African penguins living in a colony at Mystic Aquarium. A few years ago, she got into a skirmish with another penguin and tore the flexor tendon in her ankle, leaving her unable to walk properly. Veterinarians at the aquarium turn it intod a tiny molded plastic boot to stabilize and assist her injured leg so she may walk, but the boot was pretty heavy and turn it intod walking awkward for the tiny penguin. It in addition requireed to be replaced often, which was a time-consuming system, so they decided to appear for a various approach. Luckily, they knew only who to contact – their longtime partner Mystic Middle School, which had only gotten a 3D printing device of ACT Group, a Connecticut-based partner of 3D Systems.

3D-printed boot-ACTgroup

How cute is which?!

The students at Mystic Middle School were unsurprisingly thrilled to be asked to turn it into a 3D printed boot for the penguin, yet they were yet new to the innovation. Library Media Specialist Sue Prince contacted the ACT Group for assistance, and they were glad to assist. The company facilitated a workshop in 3D innovation for the students, who utilized 3D Systems’ Geomagic Capture 3D scanner to scan a cast of Purps’ foot provided by the aquarium. They and so imported the scan data into Geomagic Sculpt to add details such as treads and clocertains to the boot, which they printed on a 3D Systems ProJet MJP 5500X multi-material 3D printing device.

“The students truly astounded us in how their creative pondering, imagination and intuitiveness led this system,” said Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing and Applications Engineer for ACT Group. “It was rewarding to provide them with a innovation which may store up with their ingenuity, and to watch them pick up the software so rapidly. It additional demonstrates the require to have students learning to digitally turn it into and make at a younger age.”


The 5500X allowed for the creation of a sturdy yet elastic boot turn it intod of both flexible and rigid materials. It fit advantageous than Purps’ existing boot, and was in addition additional lightweight and durable; according to the penguin’s caretakers, she immediately took off across the exam room as soon as her new boot was fitted, walking additional normally than she had in the five years since her injury. Now Purps can waddle and swim as well as her man penguins, and hopefully has turn it intod up with – or is at very least storeing her distance of – the penguin who gave her a busted ankle in the initially place.

Purps-boot-close-up-ACTgroup“Our goal is to inspire folks to care for and preassist our ocean planet through conservation, education and research,” said Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation at Mystic Aquarium. “In this project we achieved every of these desired outcomes while benefiting the health and well being of one of our endangered species.”

Purps is not the initially penguin to benefit of 3D printing. You may remember Bagpipes, a Little Blue Penguin in New Zealand who not long ago got a whole new 3D printed foot. Whilst turn it intoing a boot may not have been really as challenging as creating a viable 3D printed foot, the students yet learned a excellent deal of 3D printing and turn it into, as well as how to turn it into a workflow to take an thought of concept to reality – a thing which can assist them well in the next. Plus, they in addition benefit of the understandledge which they assisted a penguin to walk again – not most folks can say which. Perhaps a few next veterinarians, doctors and/or medical device developers can emerge of which classroom. You can watch the full story of Yellow/Purple and her middle school saviors below: