Duck's Prosthetic Foot: 3D Printing Saves Buttercup's Life

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 28, 2013 11:40 AM EDT

buttercup duck
Buttercup, born with a backwards left foot, will soon received a prosthetic foot. The 3D-printed foot was designed by Mike Garey, owner of Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Texas. (Photo: Facebook)

Buttercup the duck is getting a prosthetic foot.

We've seen the 3D printer craze encompass everything from space pizza to an airway for an infant to an invisibility cloak and even an entire house, and now we can add a 3D-printed duck foot to the list.

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Buttercup, a resident of the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Texas, was born with a backwards left foot. Mike Garey, owner of Feathered Angels, decided something had to be done or Buttercup's life would be fairly miserable -- or over entirely. 

"With his deformed foot, he would have been in pain and had constant cuts and foot infections walking on the side of it even at our sanctuary here, and foot infections on these guys is always a serious matter," Garey said.

Garey knew that if he amputated Buttercup's foot it would be very painful for the duck and prone to infection. So he decided to amputate and then replace the foot using 3D-printing technology. Using 3D modeling software, Garey designed the duck's prosthetic foot based on the left foot of Buttercup's sister, Minnie. Then he sent it off to NovaCopy, a Tennessee company that printed a mold for the prosthetic foot, a process that took almost 14 hours.  

The mold will be used to create the actual prosthetic foot. Because the foot needs to be stretchy, and not a rigid piece of plastic, the mold was the best way to go. The mold will be filled with silicone, so it has some give, and then attached to Buttercup's foot with a silicone sock.

"This version will have a stretchy silicone sock instead of the finger trap, which will roll up on his leg, be inserted into the foot and then have a fastener in the bottom," Garey said. "If you saw Dolphin Tail, this material is similar to the WintersGel that they used." Dolphin Tail is a prosthetic that was created for an injured dolphin in 2011, and WintersGel is the prosthetic liner that attaches the amputated limb to the stump.

Buttercup is scheduled to receive his new prosthetic foot soon. You can follow his journey from amputee to prosthetic foot recipient on Buttercup's Facebook page.

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