Students at Colorado Tech Develop 3D Printed Shell for Tortoise

3D Print in actionThe process of 3D printing has come a long way since its inception, and students at Colorado Tech have taken it one step further for all the right reasons.

During his senior year at Colorado Technical University, Roger Henry stumbled upon a senior project in a very unlikely place.

Canyon Critter Reptile Rescue in Golden, CO, had a leopard tortoise named Cleopatra with a number of health problems and a shell that prevented her from socializing safely with other animals. Henry saw an opportunity to help and was able to design a 3D-printed shell for Cleopatra to wear when out and about with other animals at the reptile rescue center.

Henry used SolidWorks to create the prosthetic shell and put in an estimated 600 hours of work on the intensive project, which went through approximately 21 drafts and prototypes before the final product was revealed.

The college, the animal rescue facility, and 3D Printing store worked together using Makerbot and Taz printers to build the shell, which took its final form as a two-piece attachment for Cleopatra.

However, the 3D printing innovation doesn’t stop there.

Researchers at MIT have recently developed a new way to 3D print thousands of hair-like structures within minutes, which can perform useful tasks such as sensing and adhesion.

Instead of using conventional computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw thousands of individual hairs on a computer for hours, the team built a new software platform, called “Cilllia.” The program lets users define the angle, thickness, density, and height of thousands of hairs, all in just minutes.

By the age of 50, approximately 85% of men experience significant hair thinning, but that could change if these 3D printers have anything to do with it.

The software that the MIT team developed can create arrays of hair-like structures with a resolution of 50 microns, which is about the width of a human hair. Researchers said that this software could potentially be used to print wigs and hair extensions.

While hair extensions aren’t exactly high on Cleopatra’s list of priorities, her new 3D printed shell prosthetic has proven useful.

As a tortoise in the teenage years she is expected to live to around 80 years old, and grow two to three times in size, requiring new prosthetics in the decades to come.

With the advances in 3D technology, it shouldn’t be a problem.

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