Nicola Di Girolamo, an exotic animal veterinarian, got a severely injured pet tortoise named Uga and relied on “cutting-edge additive printing methods” in order to save its life.
While talking to Digital Trends, he said:
“As part of my job, I unfortunately see tortoises which have been injured. Uga had been attacked by rodents, which had bitten her hind legs. Her owner, a young girl, was very upset. I had the tortoise in my practice for around one month, trying everything to avoid having to amputate the hind legs.”
However, even though the clinic’s staff rehabilitated one of Uga’s legs, the other was way too damaged to be rehabilitated and therefore, had to be amputated. So, at this point Di Girolamo decided to get in touch with Roma Stampa, a local 3D-printing hub, whose owner Massimo Mostosi was eager to get involved. By this means, they took measurements of Uga in order to develop a 3D-printed prosthetic device which basically is designed to act as a wheeled cart to asssit the tortoise move around. Two neodymium magnets have been used to attach the wheeled prosthesis to Uga’s shell.
Di Girolamo also told that similar accessories for tortoises were created by him before by making use of Lego wheels, but these tended not to work very well because of the size difference between tortoises. As he had used velcro for the attachment, therefore the use of magnets was new for him. He told, “That became dirty very quickly since it was on the ground. We were very, very happy when we came up with the idea of using magnets and 3D printing. It made it functional and cost effective.”
The most amazing thing is that the prosthesis can be more easily attached and detached in its current form. Di Girolamo also explained:
“Before now, the tortoise had to hibernate with its implants on. Tortoises usually hibernate for six months per year. It was very difficult for them to be in the ground, but now owners can remove the implants before hibernation takes place. Then when they wake up in the spring, their owner can very easily reattach the implant to the tortoise so it can start moving and grazing again like it was used to.”
According to Di Girolamo, the operation has been a success and Uga is moving well at present. They are also deciding to exhibit the work at the Rome-based Maker Faire the coming October.