Yellow/Purple (AKA “Purps”), a resident of Mystic Aquarium’s endangered African penguin colony, was left with a nonfunctional flexor tendon in her ankle following a fight with another penguin. In an initial effort to immobilize, support and protect the site of injury, veterinarians at Mystic Aquarium fashioned a boot for Purps from moldable plastic material. While adequate, the animal care team at Mystic Aquarium knew there were more modern solutions available for the boot that would not only be more durable and less cumbersome for the small bird, but also would require less time than handcrafting a boot.
Since Mystic Middle School had just acquired a 3D printer - yes, middle schools in Connecticut are buying these things in 2016 - they got students to scan an existing cast of Purps’ foot, then they printed it on a 3D Systems ProJet MJP 5500X, a multi-material 3D printer that enables both flexible and rigid materials to be printed and blended simultaneously at the voxel level for custom strength and elasticity.
3D printing the new boot led to a final product that was better fitting, lighter weight and more durable, allowing Purps to walk and swim like the rest of her peers.