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buttercup duck with 3D printed legs
Credit: Facebook / NoveCopy

With the advent of the 3D printer, it opened a whole new world of possibilities in many different fields but no more so than in the field of medicine. With the ability to make new bones, organs and limbs came some amazing options for the sick. It seems that the world of 3D printing has finally made it into the animal world as a duck receives the first 3D printed prosthetic leg.

Previously a new form of orthopedic surgery gave hope for amputated cats, but that method would never work for ducks. They lack the fur and the loose skin on their legs to make it work. However, it seems the answer for amputated ducks lies in another direction.

Meet Buttercup, a duck born in a high school biology classroom in the fall of 2012. When this duck hatched, the class and their teacher knew that it wasn't quite a healthy normal duck. The mallard was born with his left foot facing backwards. This, as one would suspect, made walking a difficult venture. The class raised money to correct the deformity, but it was never fully corrected. Walking caused Buttercup a great deal of pain, so eventually he was given over to Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Tennessee.

The staff at the sanctuary was concerned about the foot as it would leave Buttercup vulnerable to cuts and would likely become infected. So when the mallard was 3 months old, they amputated his foot and set their mind to getting Buttercup a prosthetic. The world of 3D printers became the option that came to mind. However, the problem they were facing was that the material needed to be flexible and 3D printers do not work with flexible materials. However, the solution was to use the printer to make a mold then create the actual prosthetic out of silicone. The 3D printing company NovaCopy in Tennessee donated the resources to make the mold using the foot of Buttercup's sister as a guide. Now Buttercup has received the final model of his foot and could not be happier.

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