3-D printing braces up sea turtle with gap in its shell

Scientists at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Ocean...

Posted: Dec 11, 2017 6:38 AM
Updated: Dec 11, 2017 6:38 AM

Scientists at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography believe they have created the world's first 3-D-printed brace for a sea turtle's shell, and the results seem promising.

One lucky sea turtle is already wearing the brace, and it is responding well. The turtle was found in 2013 in the cooling canal of a power plant in New Jersey. It was a juvenile and weighed about 75 pounds.

A sea turtle responds well to a 3-D-printed brace after suffering likely trauma to its shell

The Birch Aquarium in San Diego will fit turtle with a new brace as it grows

"She was found with a large gap in the bottom right part of her shell. She also has an abnormal curve of her spine and paralysis of her back flippers," said Beth Chee, the aquarium's marketing director. "It is unknown what caused these issues, but it was most likely due to trauma experienced in the wild before she was rescued."

Because of the turtle's injuries, veterinary experts determined it would not survive if reintroduced to the wild. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps at the University of California, San Diego, volunteered to provide a permanent home for the injured turtle. A fundraising campaign brought in more than $50,000 to support its housing and rehabilitative needs.

Upon its arrival, the loggerhead turtle, which the research facility hasn't named per its practices, quickly became a favorite of the aquarium staff.

However, its condition got worse as it grew.

"That growth has really exacerbated her condition. Without our intervention, the sea turtle could have gastrointestinal and urogenital systems complications," Jenn Nero Moffatt, senior director of animal care, science and conservation for the aquarium, said in a statement.

"We teamed up with the Digital Media Lab at Geisel Library at UC San Diego to create a brace that will prevent the shell from curving further downward and will promote more normal growth. It's our goal to prevent further complications and keep her as healthy and happy as possible."

Chee said the turtle was the inspiration for the 3-D printed brace.

"Our husbandry team has been talking to engineers, veterinary specialists and experts in various fields since her arrival (November 2014), trying to find a solution that would help," she said.

The brace is made of a rigid white plastic that was 3-D printed to fit the turtle's shell precisely. The loggerhead, which could reach 250 pounds when fully grown, will eventually outgrow the brace, and a new one will need to be fitted.

People interested in seeing the turtle can visit the Birch Aquarium on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164
West Lafayette
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 57°
Kokomo
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 56°
Rensselaer
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Fowler
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Williamsport
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Frankfort
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 59°
Delphi
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Monticello
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events