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Tieta gets a 3D printed beak

posted 26 August 2015 at 17:56:32

When Tieta the black-beaked toucan was rescued from a box at an animal fair in Rio de Janeiro, her rescuers were appalled to see that half of her upper beak was missing. How the Brazilian bird lost its beak is open to conjecture, but it was heartbreaking to see the bird toss food into the air with its lower beak and try to catch it in its mouth, missing the morsels more often than it caught them. Step up three Brazilian universities and the wildlife management group Instituto Vida Livre, who joined forces to create a plastic prosthetic to replace Tieta's missing beak. Designing the prosthetic took three months, as it had to be light and resilient enough to allow the bird to be able to wear it comfortably and eat normally. 3D printing the beak took just two hours, with the fitting operation taking another 40 minutes. Once fitted, the 4cm, 4g beak replacement was covered with nail polish and sealed with a special polymer. It took the toucan three days to realise that she once again had a beak, but when she did she was able to feast on maggots and cockroaches to her heart's content. This wonder of 3D engineering also means that, should Tieta have chicks, she will be able to feed them like any normal toucan mother.