e-NABLE Community Expands to Create 3D Printed Animal Prosthetics

In the 9 years since its inception, e-NABLE volunteers all over the globe have 3D printed, assembled, and donated tens of thousands of hand and arm prostheses to people of need in mostly underserved communities.

Now we are expanding our mission to our non-human animal friends!  Based upon an increasing number of incoming requests we will be developing the capability to create cases for both four-legged and two-legged animals.  There are stories available online about people making artificial legs for their dogs and cats (and the occasional bird and lizard), but these tend to be sporadic.  Until now, there does not appear to be an affiliated community like e-NABLE which provides these devices on an ongoing basis.

Prostheses for animals will entail a much different approach for humans.  On one hand, animals are probably more “honest” about how a device would fit, and feel….they will let you know instantly if it is suitable.  On the other hand, the obvious challenges of communication and having the “patient” sit still are significant.  And, the design and construction demands for an animal are much more critical for an animal since the support of body weight is a factor.

3D Printed leg on a secretary bird
Large Secretary bird with a 3D printed prosthetic leg by e-NABLE Volunteer Lars Thalmann

One of our e-NABLE volunteers, Lars Thalmann in Germany successfully made a prosthetic leg for a large Secretary Bird at a local wildlife sanctuary.  The design was critical because a Secretary Bird kills its food, even in captivity, by stomping on it.  This placed severe restrictions on the design and material construction of the leg.  The same requirements are probably true even for domestic dogs and cats who would certainly try to trot or run on the leg.

Another e-NABLE Volunteer, Aaron Westbrook from Form5, has been working with “Captain Biggles” – a raccoon that needs some new wheels to get around!

3D printing helping a racoon
Wheelchair created by Form5 – Photo Credit Aaron Westbrook

We will provide updates on our initiative as we collect existing designs and begin the solicitation of animal cases.  Eventual plans include active outreach to veterinarians, animal hospitals and shelters, and rescue groups.

How to Volunteer to Make Animal Prosthetics!

A goat with a 3D printed helmet
Photo Credit: Goats of Anarchy

 We are always looking for volunteers to use their own 3D printing time, talent, and resources to help with animal cases!  If you are interested, please indicate so by doing the following:

  • Join the e-NABLE Hub, our internal social media platform if you have not already done so….it’s free!
  • Once you are a member, indicate your interest by a post in the forum section.
  • Search for the Animal Prosthetics Space in the Hub, and ask to join.  Be sure to read the existing content that is posted there.
  • If you are not familiar with standard e-NABLE hand and arm prostheses for humans, you may want to develop your skills by building a test hand and obtaining a certification badge.  This is not required, but is a great way to build skill and confidence.
  • When you are ready to build a device for an animal, review any cases either on Enable Web Central, or in the Animal Prosthetics Space.  You may want to seek assistance from other volunteers who have indicated an interest in helping animals.
  • Post your progress, challenges and questions in the Animal Prosthetics Space, and keep us updated on your progress.

Learning to build a prosthetic for any animal is also a great way for a classroom to learn technology, and help one of our furry friends!  The process for becoming involved is pretty much the same as for an individual that was just explained.  By posting your intention, and questions in both the forum and Animal Prosthetics Space of the Hub you will find plenty of people willing to provide advice and recommendations.

Good Luck and thank you for helping us make a difference!

3D Printers and Materials

If you are interested in joining e-NABLE and need recommendations for 3D printers, would like to make a 3D printed hand and need a hand kit to get started and earn your badge or need materials for prototypes, please visit our shop here. Our friends and e-NABLE Volunteers at 3D Universe will help guide you to the best 3D printer option for your budget, help you find the right materials for prototyping, strength and flexibility needs and much more!

*All purchases made through this website help support this website and e-NABLE Volunteers!

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