Featured Image Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
By Sarah Sharkey
3D printing may be a new way to help injured sea turtles on their road to recovery. Researchers from the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography have made the first 3D printed turtle shell brace, and it is working so far!
The first brace has been fitted on an injured turtle that was found in 2013 in New Jersey. The small juvenile was in the cooling canal of a power plant and weighed only 75 pounds.
Beth Chee, with the aquarium, described her initial condition, “She was found with a large gap in the bottom right part of her shell. She also has an abnormal curve of her spine and paralysis of her back flippers. It is unknown what caused these issues, but it was most likely due to trauma experienced in the wild before she was rescued.”
The seriousness of the injuries led the veterinary staff to conclude that she could not be released into the wild and survive. She was then transferred to Scripps in San Diego. As she grew there, her condition worsened. The aquarium then turned to 3D printing to create a brace to ensure that her life was happier and healthier.
The brace was created in a 3D printer and is made of rigid white plastic. It fits her shell precisely. Eventually, she will outgrow this one and another will need to be printed. It is hoped these braces will create a happier and pain-free life for this turtle.
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