Turtle Receives 3D Printed Jaw that Allows it to Eat on its Own Again

Turtle Receives 3D Printed Jaw that Allows it to Eat on its Own Again
Science & Medicine

(Natural Society) A turtle recently received a new 3D printed jaw that will allow it to eat on its own again – just one example of how this new technology will change life as we know it.

“3D printing technology uses additive design to create models out of plastic, metal, ceramic, and even living cells. BTech Innovation spent several months analyzing CT scans with computer assisted design software to create a model of the turtle’s beak. Then, they used a 3D printer to build a replacement jaw in medical-grade titanium.” [1]

Everyone knew it was coming — the time when injured animals and humans would routinely receive 3D printed body parts. Because the regulatory barriers are so much lower for animals, it is also not cost prohibitive for them to receive body part replacements practically on demand. In this way, many pets and wild animals will likely be the first to get just about any body part they need.

As an example, another turtle has also been the fortunate recipient of a 3D printed shell as a temporary measure in its healing process.

“A student at Colorado Technical University designed a 3D printed shell for a tortoise that suffered from pyramiding, a condition that, due to poor nutrition, cause her shell to develop pyramid-like growths, holes and broken parts. However, the biodegradable corn-based plastic shell cap will protect the tortoise until its shell heals.” [1]

Just like so many scientific research studies which have used laboratory animals to investigate the efficacy of various pharmaceutical drugs, they have once again been ‘volunteered’ to act as the guinea pigs. However, in the case of missing or seriously injured body parts, the downside risk is significantly lower compared to the inherent dangers of being used in clinical trials that test new and powerful drugs formulated by Big Pharma.

Wild animals, in particular, will benefit greatly from 3D printing since it will enable many of the seriously injured to return to the wild. Likewise, many cats and dogs who were on the losing end of the epic cat or dog fight will also get a second chance through this revolutionary technology.

Related: Despite Medical Advancements, Global Medicine is Making us Sick

“The technology has allowed dogs, cats, and even ducks with deformed or injured legs to run again with a variety of different prosthetic leg, wheel, and webbed foot designs.” [1]

Lucky dog runs free with 3D-printed prosthetics
Lucky dog runs free with 3D-printed prosthetics. Image from Cnet

Also know as additive manufacturing, 3D printing promises to be a vastly more cost effective approach for the replacement of both body tissues and parts. While the synthetic materials which are often used in the final 3D printed products may cause biocompatibility problems, at the very least they can be used on a temporary basis. They will also likely serve as transitional templates for living tissues and organs that are substantially more expensive to produce.

Many People Can Benefit from Body Part and Tissue Replacements

The primary issue with 3D printing applications for human medical purposes is that the regulatory process, including the requisite clinical trials, promises to be a rather lengthy and costly one. Therefore it appears that the first stage of development within this nascent field of medical technology, including all the necessary breakthroughs, will occur in the animal realm. Certainly our animal friends have earned their good fortune having been used in some very painful and oftentimes cruel laboratory experiments for so many decades.

The more frequently that animals are outfitted with their new body parts and prosthetics, the more the state of the art will be perfected. As rapidly as the advancements in 3D printing are being made in the realm of medical technology, it is fully expected that many much-needed human applications will be available in the not-too-distant-future.


When a turtle is successfully returned to the wild after it loses 60% of its jaw, the future is looking up for many war veterans who have suffered much more debilitating injuries. Likewise, the many victims of incapacitating car accidents will also see a time when their physical deficits are addressed by this revolutionary 3D printing medical technology.


[1] Christian Science Monitor Photo / Btech Innovation