Beaten, abused and unable to fend for itself, Grecia the toucan was nearly left for dead.
Grecia, a Costa Rican toucan named after its forest home, became internationally known when the bird was attacked with a stick by local teenagers, leaving the bird without most of its upper beak. When Grecia was rescued and brought back to a Costa Rica animal rescue center, Rescate Animal ZooAve, in December 2014, the bird was unable to eat or care for itself.
Toucans often rely on their beaks to regulate their body temperatures, preen, defend themselves, and make mating calls. Without a functioning beak, toucans have little chance to survive in the wild, and many are euthanized.
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Alongside a team of Costa Rican product developers, 3D Systems collaborated with the center to help design a synthetic beak that eventually allowed Grecia to eat without assistance.
Interested bird lovers can check out more on Grecia’s journey during an upcoming Animal Planet special “Toucan Nation” scheduled for 10 p.m. Wednesday.
“We strongly support our partners who embark on projects that make a difference,” said Rachael Dalton-Taggart, 3D Systems director of marketing and software products. “If our technologies can be used to help anyone in need – a bird, a pet, a person, we are all for it.”
3D Systems worked with Costa Rica partner Grupo SG to take 3D scans of Grecia’s damaged anatomy before reverse engineering an attachable prosthetic. The beak, designed throughout 2015, needed to strike a balance between durable and lightweight to allow the bird to live normally.
As a fairly small model, it was easier for 3D Systems to sculpt the size of the beak by using its own Geomagic software. The modeling team also referred to scans of other toucan beaks to make sure the engineering was correct, according to Dalton-Taggart.
The final product was composed of Duraform PA nylon, created in a Pro X SLS 500 3D printer. Grecia was outfitted with the beak in January and has been able to live much like any of the other 2,500 birds, mammals and reptiles admitted to ZooAve each year.
Images of the toucan’s mangled beak sparked an international outcry, and led to Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis submitting an anti-animal cruelty bill.
Dalton-Taggart says the Rock Hill company will be thrilled to watch the documentary on Wednesday, and said they were humbled to see their impacts made a difference on Grecia and the people of Costa Rica.
“We did see some previews and are completely excited with the documentary as a way of showing how our technologies can change the world,” she said.
Grecia is not the only toucan to receive help from 3D printing: A Brazilian toucan who was left unable to eat after crashing into a window of a building was given a printed prosthetic by a 3D printing company last year.
Want to watch
The story of Grecia the toucan will be told in the Animal Planet documentary “Toucan Nation” 10 p.m. Wednesday. In Rock Hill, Animal Planet is available on Comporium cable Channel 233.