Injured endangered penguin walks again with 3D printed boot

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A disabled African penguin who lives at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut can now walk again, thanks to 3D Systems' digital design and the passion of some middle school students.

Led by the aquarium's veterinary staff, students at Mystic Middle School worked with technical experts from ACT Group, a Connecticut-based 3D Systems partner, to make a lightweight, custom-fit boot for "Purps", a resident of Mystic Aquarium's endangered African penguin colony.

Officials said Purps was left with a nonfunctional flexor tendon in her ankle following a fight with another penguin.

In an initial effort to support and protect the site of injury, veterinarians at Mystic Aquarium fashioned a boot for Purps from moldable plastic material.

While OK, 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.

With support provided by ACT Group, Mystic Middle School students successfully executed the majority of the design to manufacturing workflow.

"The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination and intuitiveness led this process," said Nick Gondek, Director of Additive Manufacturing and Applications Engineer, ACT Group, in a written statement. "It was rewarding to provide them with a technology that could keep up with their ingenuity, and to watch them pick up the software so quickly. It further demonstrates the need to have students learning to digitally design and manufacture at a younger age."

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