In the growing field of medical uses for 3D printing, one the most recent beneficiaries is a toucan named Tieta. A Brazilian Toucan, rescued from a wildlife animal fair in Rio de Janeiro missing the upper part of her beak, Tieta was recently fitted with a 3D printed prosthesis beak. Until her surgery, she had been struggling to feed herself by throwing food into the air and attempting to catch it, often unsuccessfully.
The prosthetic is made from plastic and sealed with nail polish and a castor oil plant polymer. In order to create this beak, the Instituo Vida Livre – a wildlife management group – and three Brazilian universities worked together to create a design. After three months of designing, 2 hours of printing, and a 40 minute surgery, Tieta learned to use her beak within a few days and is able to once again feed and clean herself.
Even with the new beak, Tieta will not be able to survive in the wild, but she will be able to feed not only herself, but also potential future offspring. Furthermore, Tieta will be an educational asset both on the ways in which technology can positively impact nature and medicine, and on the harms of illegal animal smuggling, having lost her beak either due to a fight with a fellow Toucan in captivity, or due to abuse at the hands of her smugglers. Ibama is planning to send Tieta to an educational zoo to raise awareness, although the exact zoo has not yet been decided upon.