Scientists Check In On Sea Turtle With First 3D Printed Shell Brace Years Later

There are times when the little creatures need some assistance, and such was the case for a loggerhead sea turtle. In 2014, the sea turtle was rescued and moved to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego.

The aquarium shared in a press release that turtle was found near a power plant in New Jersey and she was in need of assistance. She was significantly underweight at just 94 pounds and she had a hole in her shell.

The team at the aquarium realized that she needed assistance and they were willing to give it to her. They did more than nurse her back to health, however, they designed a brace that would keep her shell from degrading.

For the next three years, they took a special interest in the turtle, who ended up almost doubling her weight. She was able to reach 130 pounds, despite the fact that she did not have her brace yet.

Her caregivers realized she needed additional assistance because the gap in her shell was getting worse. They also recognized she had paralysis in her back flippers and an unusual curve in her spine.

In order to fix these problems, the aquarium got together with the Digital Media Lab at UC San Diego Library. They were able to design a 3D-printed brace for the shell, the first one ever created.

Jenn Nero Moffatt, who is the senior director of animal choir at Birch Aquarium at the time, said they looked at the good half of the shell and mirrored it. In that way, they were able to create a shell that would snap in place perfectly.

A blue light 3D scan of the shell was done and a four-dollar piece of plastic was used to design the shell itself.

Photo: Instagram/@birchaquarium

Six years have passed since the shell was created and the turtle is still doing well. She is about 3 feet long, 2.5 feet wide, and now weighs 210 pounds.

The turtle also has an annual checkup, where they scrub herself and get new measurements. The team shared the results of the checkup on Instagram:

Now that the turtle has been given a clean bill of health, she has moved back to her home at the aquarium. We hope that she lives a very long and happy life.

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