Today, Buttercup calls the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Texas his home. As luck would have it, his new dad there, Mike Garey, is a software engineer who saw that Buttercup’s health would be at risk if he were left to hobble around.
“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 told CNET.
Back in February, Buttercup’s left foot was amputated by Collierville Animal Clinic’s exotic veterinarian, Dr. McGee. Garey got in touch with 3D-printing company NovaCopy, who agreed to donate its services to help create a new foot for Buttercup.
Using photographs of the left foot of Buttercup’s sister, Minnie, Garey and NovaCopy created a mold for a prosthetic foot. As detailed on Buttercup’s Facebook page, his caretakers received molding material this past week and got right to work making his new foot.
While 3D printing can produce a precise replica of a foot, the plastic would not be flexible, and of course Buttercup needs a foot that can flex so he can walk, play and swim. As a result, his new foot was made of silicon. A silicon “sock” was also made and used to attach the foot to his body. Winters Gel — a special liner developed to help attach a tale to Winter, a dolphin who had lost hers in a crab trap — helps keep Buttercup’s new foot in place.
By Sunday, Buttercup’s new prosthetic food had been completed and, as you can see in this video, he is walking with it. Soon, Buttercup will be able to hang out like a “real duck” with the other animals at the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary.
Noting that the uses of 3D printing “can often be dismissed as frivolous,” Dan O’Connor writes on a 3D printing site that “there are some applications that are genuinely life-changing and often life-affirming.” Buttercup’s new foot is certainly a marvelous example. 3D printing can, as Care2 blogger Steve Williams writes, truly change the world for better, whether by saving the life of a baby, giving a bald eagle a new beak, making “arms” for a young girl born with a rare muscle disorder or giving one Texas duck a new webbed foot he can walk on.
Photo from Buttercup Gets a New High Tech Foot