Hobbes the three-legged dog to get 3D printed prosthetic leg from California students
Students make prosthetic limb for three legged dog by using 3D printer
We’ve already known for a while that 3D printing is a perfect technology for making arm and hand prostheses in all shapes and sizes. Just look at the wonderful work E-NABLE is doing for children everywhere. But who says only humans should benefit from this exciting technology? Fortunately, more and more animals who have lost limbs are also benefitting from 3D printing, like Bubbles the two-legged weiner dog.
And now it looks like Hobbes, a six-year old terrier mix from Sacremento, is about to benefit. While Hobbes only has three legs, he can play around and explore like many other dogs. As you can see in the video below, he is a very happy dog. He can climb stairs, graze the backyard and even jump onto the bed of his owner, Andrea Bledsoe. As she explains, the happy Hobbes has had a very sad past. Hobbes was a stray with a badly-broken front leg. "The break had healed incorrectly, and the veterinary surgeons were forced to amputate", she said. Bledsoe was working in the vet clinic at the time, and fell in love with the little guy.
While Hobbes is still capable of walking and seems full of energy, he does have to hop along which quickly fatigues him. Therefore Bledsoe and two of her fellow UC Davis graduate students are now determined to make a 3D printed prosthetic leg for him. As Randy Carney, postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry and molecular medicine, added: "And he’s so young and full of energy that it seemed like a waste if he couldn’t get moving like he wanted to."
Together with Holly Abney, a veterinary student, the trio has set out to develop the leg, which isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Of course 3D printing a leg prosthetic is always more complicated than a hand version, as it needs to be capable of supporting all the weight and resist quite a lot of pressures and surfaces. To make matters worse, Hobbes is missing his entire leg, so there’s no stump to attach to.
The trio therefore came up with a harness design that can be attached to the dog’s chest. The harness itself has is made from plastic, and heated to perfectly bend around Hobbes’s body. While the leg is still strictly work-in-progress, the team hopes to be able to make a flexible prosthetic with spring-back capacity, so Hobbes can actually run as well. To do so, they are currently experimenting with the flexible NinjaFlex filament, though its currently not yet known if it works.
While they were originally looking into carbon fiber molding, the team eventually settled for 3D printing technology as its just far more affordable. They could even use a free-to-use 3D printer at the Arcade Library in Sacramento. While challenging, the project has so far also been rewarding. "It’s extremely exciting to me, and much more exciting than studying at this point," Abney said. "It’s nice to get hands-on and try to help an animal, instead of sitting home learning about helping an animal all the time." With a bit of luck, Hobbes will be running everywhere again in just a few months’ time.