3D Printing Enables Bird “Söckchen” to Walk Again

When secretary bird Söckchen’s left leg broke, it seemed that her days were numbered, had it not been for the voluntary work of engineer Lars Thalmann and e-Nable who provided a 3D-printed prosthetic leg for the bird.

At drupa, we do not only focus on the newest technological advancements, we also like to present you heartwarming and inspiring stories about how 3D printing can help people, or in this case birds.

Break a Leg and Fix it with 3D Printing

Söckchen is the star of the bird show in Weltvogelpark Walsrode. At least she was until she was found by her keepers with a broken leg in the park’s aviary. When her lower leg had to be amputated it significantly limited her ability to move, forcing her to become an observer in the flight show she once starred in.

The employees of Weltvogelpark Walsrode did a lot of online research until they finally found a solution for Söckchen. They discovered e-Nable, an organization that is part of the international network Enabling the Future supplying children with individual 3D-printed prosthetic hands for free.

Söckchen 3D Prothese

Enabling a Bird’s Future

After reaching out, engineer Lars Thalmann, one of e-Nable’s co-founders, visited the park to take the bird’s measures. Shortly after, he provided the first version of the artificial limb which was not working quite well yet. It was too heavy for Söckchen to keep her balance and there was a little friction with her healthy leg.  The second version of the 3D-printed leg, though, was everything the park and Söckchen could have hoped for. The secretary bird  can finally trudge through the vast meadows of the park again.

The procedure has been done with a couple of storks before but rarely succeeded. In some cases, their stumps got infected. “Medically there are no problems with the new prosthesis”, says park speaker Janina Buse.

3D Printing Provides for Those in Desperate Need

Growing as tall as about 120 cm, the secretary bird is a bird of prey native to African savannahs. It looks more like a crane or a stork than a raptor but it mostly hunts on the ground which makes being able to walk even more important for Söckchen. Thanks to 3D printing, she is not going to face any more problems with this in the near future!

How would you improve people’s or animals’ lives using 3D printing? Tell us in comments!