Pawsthetics Lends a Helping (3D Printed) Paw
We catch up with Pawsthetics for a look at 3D printing as it helps the animal population.
3D printed prosthetics are an application often in focus as the technology can be put to use to help those with limb deficiency. The animal kingdom has also seen great benefit, as myriad animals in need of a new foot, shell, or beak are increasingly able to have movement restored and even lives saved through these high-tech prosthetics. Fitting a patient is difficult enough, as we’ve heard from prosthetists, but doing so for those who can’t provide feedback through the process adds another level of challenge.
The 3D Printing Store, based in Colorado, has established itself as a service provider that has extended into creating prosthetics for animals through Pawsthetics.
Justin Finesilver, Director of Operations/Marketing at The 3D Printing Store, offers a look into Pawsthetics’ approach in our interview.
Can you please provide a quick introduction to The 3D Printing Store?
“We have been in business since 2012, becoming one of the first customer facing operations in Colorado focusing on 3D printing, 3D scanning and Design. What started out as a hobby with two Makerbot's and hours by appointment only has become a full time, full scale operation serving the educational aerospace, small run manufacturing, and product development consulting for businesses of all sizes. We pride ourselves on providing excellent service, where you can always talk to a person about your project. We want people to empowered to learn about manufacturing and how they can make their ideas become a reality. Our slogan is ‘Print Your Ideas’ and to us it has remained a mantra as we have helped thousands of people all over Colorado and the broader US achieve their project goals.”
Among the many projects you've been involved with over the years is work with Pawsthetics; how did that get started?
“We began working on animal related projects in 2015 when we worked on our first project with Cleopatra the Tortoise, a local tortoise whose shell has been worn down to ‘peaking’ a condition where the shell grows incorrectly due to a poor diet. The tortoise was diagnosed with this when it was rescued. The rescue researched options and we were contacted to 3D scan and 3D print the shell for Cleopatra. The story hit over 200 worldwide press placements, which was unexpected and exciting. From there things just snowballed. We begun working with dogs all over the US, in New York, in California and beyond. We will take any inquiry and welcome the challenge to work with new and different animals. We can't solve every problem but we are so passionate about the animals we serve, that we really try. We incorporated as a non-profit in 2017 and have operated with a ’rescue first’ mentality, choosing to work with rescue/shelter animals or those recently adopted.”
How is Pawsthetics structured?
“It is a non-profit subsidiary of The 3D Printing Store and we are 100% donor driven.”
What makes 3D printing well suited for use in veterinary care?
“The materials are cheap enough and strong enough to be used for many applications and often times are lighter weight and more functional than traditional production methods for the same devices.”
How do much do typical 3D printed prosthetics for Pawsthetics cost? How do these costs work out for pet owners?
“We ask that our clients/owners donate what they can and are ‘need based.’ if a person can afford to donate the entire cost of the project (typically between $300-1000) that is great, otherwise we fundraise to cover the differences in cost as needed. Also MatterHackers has worked with us and DONATED a ton of material this year for us to use for our cause, which has really helped our cause. Mara and Chris at MH have been a huge support for us!”
What types of animals have benefitted from Pawsthetics' work?
“The majority of our clients are dogs, however we have worked with cats, tortoises and even are taking on a goat! We love a challenge and while we can't always be sure that our devices will work, we can always promise to provide the best attempt a solution that our team of professionals can come up with.”
How do most animals react to receiving new prosthetics?
“This is the hardest part of what we do, the animals can't tell us how it feels or where to adjust! Typically there is a big adjustment period for the animals and we have training programs for them to follow to get comfortable in the devices.”
Do any patients stand out in your memory?
“It is hard to say that we have a favorite, but there are some that stand out.
Athenas and Orion at a rescue in Venezuela who we designed and 3D printed carts for last year. The country is struggling so much that animals are forgotten about but the rescue, Projecto Nala is rescuing and caring for over 200 dogs at any point!
Walter the Bulldog, who was a victim of dogfighting in CT last year. He was rescued from an alley and was in really bad shape, having to have his ear and part of his leg amputated. He has become somewhat of a mascot for us recently and has been a project we have used to teach curriculum around with a partner school in Philadelphia and also that we worked with local Girl Scouts to fundraise for. He has really brought a big national community together...but the thing is none of us have ever met Walter, although we hope to one day soon!
Toby the Tortoise as he was a World's First recipient of a replacement Gular Horn. This is a part of his shell that sits under his head and both protects him and helps him attract mates.
Just a few of the favorites.”
How can people contribute to Pawsthetics' work?
“We fundraise year round on our website, pawsthetics.com. Click the DONATE TODAY button to contribute via paypal. We are also always searching for other 3D printing companies to donate machines, supplies and materials where possible. We also would love to have more volunteer CAD designers!”
What other projects is The 3D Printing Store involved in?
“We are getting really involved in the educational side of things piloting programs both locally and nationally. We have also launched our Shelfspace concept, which is basically a product development program where we consult with people/companies at any stage in their process and help them get their products to market. We offer consulting on the design/3D printing side, but also have legal expertise in trademarks, patents and helping develop manufacturing relationships with producers here in the US and abroad. We love working with people from all walks of life and teaching them about 3D printing and the possibilities therin! We want to get America making things again!”