3D metal printing enables incredible applications because it truly allows freedom of design. For the first time ever, Concept Laser has manufactured a prosthetic titanium beak using 3D metal printing and implanted on Gigi, a blue macaw (a genus of the parrot family), in Brazil. This unusual prosthetic saved Gigi’s very life, as macaws are unable to eat solid foods without a beak.
The illegal trade of wild birds is a sad story of greed, and it doesn’t just happen in Brazil. During Gigi’s captivity at the hands of illegal bird traders, poor housing conditions caused severe malformation of the bird’s beak. Ultimately, Gigi was freed by the Brazilian police, but the magnificent bright blue and yellow feathered macaw could no longer be fed without a beak.
A team of veterinarians, together with 3D printing experts from the Renato Archer Technology and Information Center (CTI) in Campinas, Brazil, developed an implant solution for the bird. In the case of Gigi, Plastic was not suitable. Macaws use their beaks to open seeds and break other hard shells, meaning that their beaks need to be extremely long-lasting and strong. This being the case, the team decided on titanium, known to be extremely durable. Titanium presented itself as the perfect solution, as it is biocompatible, lightweight and corrosion-resistant.
Gigi’s artificial beak was created using a Mlab cusing R from Concept Laser, with which especially delicate parts with high surface quality can be manufactured. The 3D-printed prosthetic was secured in place with bone cement and orthopedic screws. Just 48 hours after the operation, Gigi was able to try out the beak.