The latest technology now allows you to create and print a tangible object in your home or garage using 3D printers. Within a matter of hours, you can create and print a new pair of shoes, machine parts, toys and a host of other objects. And medical scientists are now using 3D bio-printers to help humans and animals alike.
A prosthetic beak saved a bald eagle's life. Animal rescuers came across a bald eagle that first appeared to be ill. However, upon more careful inspection, it was decided that a poacher had shot this eagle's beak, which caused enough damage that she could no longer eat, drink or preen herself. She was nursed back to health by feeding tubes and the use of forceps. However, it soon became evident that without a beak, this eagle would never be able to feed or clean herself. The thought of euthanasia was becoming a reality.
Once a raptor expert was contacted, she refused to allow this eagle to be put to sleep. She teamed up with a group that included scientists, engineers and a dentist. This group of people was able to design this bald eagle a new beak using a 3D modeling program and were subsequently able to print her a new beak, which they attached to the bird. She is now able to feed and preen herself without any difficulty.
Beauty, as the bald eagle has been named, is still under the care of the raptor expert, but is much more self-sufficient than she has been. The 3D printed beak is not quite stable enough to release Beauty back into the wild yet. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable step for the future of treating injured animals with 3D printing prosthetics.
Another amazing use for 3D printers is the creation of a lower jaw. A woman had contracted an intense infection in her jaw. The infection ran rampant and literally ate her lower jaw. For the health of the patient, her medical team decided to perform surgery to remove the remnants of her lower jaw.
However, without a lower jaw, the patient would not be able to eat normally or speak very well. Her health care team gathered and decided to use a 3D printer in order to create a prosthetic lower jaw for her to use. First, a digital model was made of this woman's jaw. Then using a titanium powder the jaw was printed out using a 3D printer. The medical team then covered the 3D printed jaw with artificial bone and polished so it would fit the patient perfectly.
After the surgery, it took some antibiotics to ensure the new jaw healed properly. However, this woman is back to eating and speaking normally, as if she never had any problems at all. This 3D printed prosthetic also gave the woman back the proper contour to her face.
Currently in the works, there are labs and hospitals testing the ability to create use 3D printed heart vessels, organs such as kidneys and human skin. While these advancements in medical science may not be available right away, they are definitely on the horizon.
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