3D printer helps fix duckling's ugly deformity with new webbed foot

A disabled duck will get to put his best webbed foot forward, thanks to a prosthetic limb made with the help of a 3D printer.

"Buttercup" was born in a high school lab with a deformity that made him unlike all the other ducklings: His left foot was turned backwards. For the first months of his life, Buttercup limped around on his side, endured severe pain and suffered constant cuts and foot infections.

It wasn’t until Buttercup was transferred to Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Tenn., that owner and software engineer Mike Garey was able to conjure up a way to help the little fella out. After Buttercup had his bad foot amputated back in February, Garey weighed out the options for a replacement. He considered a peg leg, but the concept of replacing the entire foot appealed more to him. But how to do it?

Garey found his answer through 3-D printing company NovaCopy. Garey, with the help of NovaCopy, used photos of the left foot of Buttercup’s sister, Minnie, as a model of what the new foot would look like. They wanted to create a foot that was realistic and as flexible as the real thing. Although the plastics used in 3D printing are not pliable enough for a duck to walk on, the technology did enable them to produce a mold used to cast a silicone foot for Buttercup.

Garey says Buttercup’s new foot is different than typical prosthetics.

“This version will have a stretchy silicone sock instead of the finger trap, which will roll up on his leg, be inserted into the foot and then have a fastener in the bottom,” Garey said.

This lucky ducky is set to receive his brand new foot in the next two weeks.

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