We’ve mentioned the revolutionary aspects of rapid prototyping here on the blog before. The technology gives us the ability to quickly and inexpensively take an idea from computer generated concept to actual physical project in less time and with less materials used than ever before.
Techniques such as 3D printing literally create a product out of thin air as the drawing comes to life line by line. Exact measurements are taken, coordinates are plotted, and rather than removing material from a raw piece of steel, aluminum, wood, alloy, or plastic, material is actually laid down pass after pass as a print head creates an actual object rather than just a printout on a piece of paper.
This technology has helped to speed along production of countless numbers of objects. However, rapid prototyping tools and technology can also be used to create final products. The highly precise nature of the printing combined with the ability to make minor changes through various production runs makes for a high quality, highly customizable product that can be created seemingly on demand.
Such is the case with Derby, a dog that was born with deformed front legs. Rather than having paws, Derby’s front legs are short and just seem to kind of trail off to nothing. Movement was difficult for Derby, as he would push the front half of his body along with with his rear legs. Running was, of course, impossible.
His adoptive owner first tried getting him a cart to support his front half. This allowed for movement but was far from ideal. Mobility was much less than it could have been and he was unable to play with other dogs.
That’s when the owner, a woman who fortunately had access to high tech 3D modeling and printing facilities, got the idea to create prosthetics for Derby using rapid prototyping.
They would go through multiple iterations of the prosthetics that would eventually allow Derby to lead a normal life. Casts were made of his elbows and the specialized 3D printing equipment was able to use two separate materials simultaneously when creating Derby’s new legs. This allowed for a hard surface to be used for the actual job of being his legs but a softer, more comfortable material was used for the cups used to attach them to the dog.
“Having these images on file and being able to pritn them is a lot easier than having to hand sculpt every single mold and rebuild these braces five or 10 times,” says the certified orthotist involved in creating new legs for Derby.
Once outfitted, Derby was off to the races. He now routinely runs a mile or two a day with his owners and the joy he has in his newly-found free range of motion is evident in almost everything he does.