Injured Tortoise Who Lost Shell in Fire Receives Worlds First 3D-Printed Shell

The wild animal world is of great value for us humans and many people have realized that and as a result of that take great part in its protection. This self-awareness is something on which we should all rely as the animals are an integral part of our planet and every animal is an important link in the eco-system chain.

One example how can people go beyond their boundaries in saving animals is the story of the tortoise named as Freddy. This tortoise managed to survive a massive fire but during that process it lost its valuable shell. Freddy was found close to death by the veterinarian surgeon Dr. Rodrigo Rabello that after a bush fire it lost 85% of its protective shell. Not only that Freddy lost its only shell, but also he was hungry for 45 days and had suffered pneumonia. In such bad shape with almost no shell, burned, and exhausted this tortoise got the nickname Freddy, after the fire-damaged character Freddy Krueger, in the movie Nightmare on Elm Street fame.

A shell of a tortoise grows only once in its lifetime and a new one cannot be regenerated which left Freddy disabled and scarred for his remaining life. The shell is of great importance for the tortoises as it protects them from hunters, predators and it is their sacred home.

However, Freddy was not left alone thanks to a group of volunteers named as the “Animal Avengers” from Brazil to which belonged Dr. Rabello himself. Dr. Rabello with the consultation of other three vets, a dental surgeon, and a 3D designer, have found a solution for this poor tortoise, a new 3D protective shell. They worked really hard and provided Freddy with a new shell, but not only Freddy got his shell also other animals had received their 3D printing parts. Namely, up to now they have designed and printed a series of beak prosthetics for toucans, a parrot, and a goose.

Freddy was inspiration for this team, and one of the veterinarians, Dr. Roberto Fecchio, said that their driving force was their common love for animals and science. Together they have realized that they could “do some extraordinary work using cutting-edge technology to push back the boundaries of life-saving care for mutilated animals by giving them customized prostheses.”

How did they do it?

They have closely studied and measured other tortoise shells, and after some time in research they have decided on the use of 3D print as a new shell for Freddy. They used a corn-derived plastic and printed the shell in several pieces.

Here how these avengers created the shell.

The “Hulk” was Cicero Moraes who analyzed the shells of other tortoises and designed a virtually “smashproof” 3D printed shell in four individual pieces. He explained:

To design the hull I took a series of pictures from all angles of Freddy as well as photos of a healthy tortoise to compare. Then I reconstructed a 3D computer imaging model of the complete shell using the tortoise’s exact measurements.”

Vision”, Dr. Paulo Miamoto, printed the shell in four parts by using a desktop 3D printer. These parts were designed to fit Freddy. But, the printing process required plenty of time as for single piece it needed 50 hours to print. After the printing, all the pieces needed to get assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.

The “Iron Man” was the surgeon Roberto Fecchio who implanted the printed prosthetic into the remaining shell of Freddy. Freddy needed this operation so that he could be functional once again. Freeddy regained his mobility really quickly and proudly wears his new hull.

The Brazilian artist Yuri Caldera painted the white 3D printed shell making it very realistic. But, in the painting process the team searched for the right paint that will not harm Freddy’s health and that wouldn’t wear away the carapace. The artist made it almost like real by using natural colors and designs, specific to tortoises.

Freddy nowadays seems as any other tortoise with full mobility of a tortoise and spends his days in the home of one of the Animal Avengers, his savor, the veterinarian Dr. Rodrigo Rabello.

In the YouTube video, one can see how the assembling process of the shell was done. This is the first built fully prosthetic tortoise shell that did not cost a lot, $136, but offered incredible life for Freddy.

Dr. Rabello believes that this is the beginning of a new revolution in the protection of the animal world. He stated the following:

This is a mark in veterinary medicine. From now on we will have a new age. Especially when it comes to wild animals. It’s a total satisfaction; we’ll always strain to save a life, no matter whose.”

We hope you found this story touching and that will be a great inspiration for people and as well as for scientists in finding new ways of caring for injured and rehabilitating animals.