Many materials can be used in 3D printing machines — silver, wax, plastic, steel, even titanium. But it wasn’t until late last year when we met Derby, the dog with a congenital deformity who was able to walk like a puppy again thanks to 3D-printed legs, that it became clear that 3D printers can use another raw material: our melted hearts.
If you haven’t heard of Derby, he’s a spunky Husky mix who, due to his congenital defect, has severely stunted front legs. This made it difficult and even painful for Derby to move about without aid, until he received a pair of 3D-printed legs from South Carolina-based 3D Systems. And now, thanks to improvements in design and materials, Derby’s legs have been upgraded, to make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster—no wait, that’s the Six Million Dollar Man. But still, Derby’s new legs are a big improvement, and he seems to have the same range of motion that any other dog has.
The original design (below) for Derby’s legs were “blades” made of plastic and rubber, which allowed him to walk, climb steps, and run, but were too low to the ground and didn’t provide optimal shock absorption.
Aiming to improve on the blades, Tara Anderson (the original designer) and her team at 3D Systems first tried to “take the initial design and blow it up.” This failed when the larger blades were attached to Derby — it was like he had “balloons on his elbows” that were less effective than the originals.
Turning to nylon, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and a new figure-eight design (below), Anderson and her team were able to come up with an improved leg that effectively has a “knee,” allowing the new synthetic limbs to give Derby’s upper body more height, as well as more shock absorption.
Thanks to the new design and construction, the little bionic wonder pup is able to achieve all kinds of movements that he was “never able to do,” including walking in a straight line, and “sitting like a normal dog sits.” But, considering that 3D-printed prosthetics are advancing rapidly (approaching Luke Skywalker-level awesome), printing ribcages out of titanium is now possible, and the existence of Disney-themed bionic hands is a reality, perhaps Anderson, her team, and Derby, won’t be content to settle for normal.
What do you think about Derby and his happy bionic feet? Let us know in the comments section below!
Images: 3D Systems