Duck Foot: The Best Use of 3D Printing We’ve Seen Yet

by Darcy Sturges


Woah, Nellie! We’re in the future!

A few years ago I discovered 3D printing – some friends of mine got into it, printing their own jar lids, toys, bolts, and even their own parts to build their own printer. But personally, I think new inventions gain their validity when they can be used to better the world. Like when they can print a new foot for a one-footed duck.

Meet Buttercup, a young, fluffy duck who was born with a backward foot. He had immense trouble walking (no shocker there! I can barely walk with both feet facing the correct direction) so his caretakers decided the best option would be to make Buttercup a prosthetic.



But how? Prosthetics often go through many trial runs before finding a good fit, and a duck is not the most articulate of creatures. Mike Garey, Buttercup’s friend from the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary, teamed forces with Melissa Ragdale of NovaCopy to print a 3D model of Buttercup’s sister Minnie’s foot.



Normally the process to make Buttercup a prosthetic would involve casting his stump to make a mold, using the mold to make a model of his stump, building a clay foot off of said model stump, and casting around clay model to make a mold of the model. That final mold would be the mold for the silicone prosthetic. Any errors in any of these steps could result in starting over. Whew, that’s a lot of work!

With a 3D model, the process is much simpler: scan Minnie’s foot, use a 3D printer to print a mold for the prosthetic, and fill the mold with silicone. “This version will have a stretchy silicone sock instead of the finger trap, which will roll up on his leg, be inserted into the foot and then have a fastener in the bottom,” Garey said.


Buttercup is one lucky duck, for sure. You can follow his journey on his adorable Facebook page.

For more 3D printing magic news, get this…scientists and technicians have used 3D printing to rebuild part of a man’s face, a $150 prosthetic hand (very inexpensive, as far as prosthetics are concerned), and beautiful, creative prosthetic coverings. New possibilities popping up (printing out?) every day!

Want to try this at home? If you have a couple grand to spare, check out this site to compare 3D printer models. Buy your filaments (kind of like ink), find your patterns, and you’re free to hop to it, no matter how many feet you have.


Photos via Buttercup Gets a New High Tech Foot Facebook page.

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