A disabled dog named Derby can now run, thanks to his new, 3D-printed prosthetic legs. Derby was born with disfigured front limbs and was initially only able to crawl. When 3D Systems employee Sherry Portanova adopted the husky, she knew she wanted to improve his quality of life.
In Portanova’s first attempt, she fitted Derby with a set of wheels. He was able to run, but with limited mobility. She then enlisted the help of 3D Systems.
Derby received his first set of prosthetics a year ago, which allowed him to walk for the first time. Tara Anderson, another employee of 3D Systems and the prosthetic designer, admitted the initial set had its issues.
“It was like he had balloons on his elbows. He was just flopping them out to the side, like, ‘I don’t really know what you want me to do here,’” Anderson said. “It was watching him, and going, ‘well, that design doesn’t work. Next one!’”
With the help of orthopedic experts and several technologies, 3D Systems built Derby ‘loops’ similar to children’s jumping shoes. The custom-made shoes were also meant to prevent Derby from digging into the ground. Over time, the team is building Derby ‘progressively longer legs until he reaches his optimal height.’
The most recent set of prosthetics are more flexible, made using selective laser sintering technology. These raise Derby higher off the ground so his front paws are about even with his hind legs, and have a bounce similar to a real knee.
“It raised him up to his proper height,” Portanova said. “Now he’s walking in a straight line and he’s sitting like a real dog sits, which he’s never been able to do.”