In researching our last article on 3D printing, the author had originally intended to include a few human interest stories-stories where someone’s life was changed for the better through 3D printing.  Well, the more I read on the topic the more stories I came up with…so I decided to give these heartwarming 3D printing stories their own special post.

Here, in no particular order, are three 3D printing stories that may just brigthen up your day!

Buttercup the Duck

Being an animal lover, this is my particular favorite.  Buttercup is a duck who was born with a deformed foot which made it impossible for him to walk (waddle?).  Buttercup’s caretakers at the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Tennessee worked with a 3D printing company called NovaCopy to design a prosthetic foot for Buttercup.  The foot was manufactured using a 3D printer.

Check out this video of Buttercup walking for the first time.


The best part is that video is arguably how excited Buttercup’s caretakers are to see him walk!  They’re so encouraging.  For more pictures of Buttercup and his new foot check out the full story on Mashable. 

2) Robohand

This story is fairly well known at this point but definitely worth a mention.  A South African carpenter cut off four of the fingers on his right hand during a work accident.  In order to be able to continue his profession, the carpenter knew he’d need to create prosthetic fingers.  Working with a designer, he was able to create a prosthetic using a Makerbot, an inexpensive 3D printer.  His design has been used to help children who are born missing a part of their hand or hands.  This is Makerbot’s video about the Robohand-it’s a bit on the long side but definitely interesting.

The prosthetic hands only cost around $500 to make.  This is a huge savings compared with the tens of thousands of dollars one would spend on a state-of-the-art factory-made prosthetic.  Of course, the 3D printed hand is far more primitive.  But for the majority of people who can’t afford a regular prosthetic, 3D printing is an amazing alternative.  This is also great for children who are growing and will therefore need to occasionally acquire the next size up in their prosthetic.  Also, the prosthetic was made using nylon-a material we use all the time here at Craftech!

3) 3D Windpipe Saves Baby

I really like this story because of how cutting edge it is.  A group of doctors at the University of Michigan were able to save the life of a boy with a rare condition known as tracheaobronchomalacia.  This condition only affects 1 in 2,200 babies.  It causes the cartilege in the developing trachea to be too soft, making the tissue collapse and causing breathing distress.  Before 3D printing, this condition meant that the baby would never be able to leave the hospital.  This time, doctors were able to create a 3D printed stint that was sown into the the airways, giving them support.  The stint was created using an exact 3D model so that it would fit perfectly.  The prosthetic windpipe is made of a biodegradable material that will be absorbed into the baby’s body after three years.  The timing of the absorption is perfect, as doctors expect the trachea to have grown strong enough to function on its own in three years.  The 3D engineers who made the trachea are now working on other medical applications for 3D printed implants.  You can read more about it here.

There you have it!  Did I miss any?  Does anyone know of any other heartwarming 3D printing stories?


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