Printing Arms & Legs for Boys & Dogs

Hobbes gets around pretty good as a three-legged dog. But if UC Davis Veterinary student, Andrea Bledsoe has her way, he’ll be getting a prosthetic leg soon with help from her friends Randy Carney and Holly Abney, and the Sacramento Library’s 3-D printer. Andrea’s colleagues have a knack with material science, and are working on a design for Hobbes that they can print with the library’s MakerBot 3-D printer.
Manufacturers have been using 3-D or Additive Manufacturing (AM) for years.
The process was invented at MIT, and relies on 3-D modeling. A CAD program or a mechanical device such as the FARO Arm is used to develop 3-D measurements of the design, and then that data is inputted into the 3-D printer to print models and prototypes.
The 3-D printer then lays down thin layers of material three-dimensionally to create an object. The most common material used is plastic. However, many other materials are currently under evaluation from exotic alloys to edibles.
Widely used in manufacturing for years, 3-D printing has expanded into jewelry, footwear, and most notably the dental and medical industries. Even NASA is on board with this dynamic technology. Some experts predict that we’re about 10 years away from printing human tissue. For more fun, check out Netflix’s documentary Print The Legend it might take you back to the early days of the Silicon Valley.

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