Author: Rhiannon Williams

Sprocket the cat has been fitted with a 3D printed leg brace which will hopefully save his leg from amputation following a series of nasty accidents

Sprocket, who is less than a year old, was hit by a car and had to have his leg wired back together before being mauled by a dog six weeks later. His leg suffered serious nerve damage in parts of the limb. Sprocket was unable to move freely following the accidents.

His designer owner Fergus Fullarton Pegg, who works as a design innovation researcher at the Glasgow School of Art, decided to design the cat a 3D printed orthosis. Thanks to the brace, Fullarton Pegg hopes Sprocket will be able to regain some use in the limb and prevent its amputation.

The designer used a Formlabs 3D printer with the blessing of a vet to create the orthosis, which protects and supports Sprocket’s leg without placing additional pressure on it. If the limb does not heal and has to be amputated, Fullarton Pegg has also started working on a prosthesis.

The printer uses a laser to harden light-resistant heated resin to create structures designed on a desktop computer, compared to the move conventional 3D printing process of printing layer-upon-layer of plastic.

The lightweight yet durable 3D printed plastic has also been similarly used to help Cleopatra, a leopard tortoise who suffers from a painful disease which causes her shell to wear away. Roger Henry, a Colorado Technical University student, designed the tortoise a prosthetic shell, allowing her to play with other tortoises without fear of harm.

The lightweight prosthetic shell attaches using velcro, and will only need to be worn when Cleopatra is around other tortoises. Her shell is expected to regrow within a couple of years thanks to the optimum temperature and a diet including dandelions and cactus.

Though currently fairly niche, 3D printing stands to revolutionise the way we live within the next few decades, allowing us to print our own replacement components for household appliances, everyday objects or even food.