Additive Manufacturing helps save a rare bird

The penetration of additive manufacturing into modern technology is widespread and significant, and continues to increase due to the versatility of techniques that allow combinations of different materials, control over the internal morphology and structure of fabricated parts.

In the lastest issue of Materials & Design, a unique case study shows the use of additive manufacturing to provide customized clinical care to an individual animal patient. The paper is titled “Design and additive manufacturing of titanium alloy beak prosthesis for Grus japonensis” (

The patient in this study was the second rarest species of crane, a Grus japonensis (Red-Crowned Crane), found in the Amur River basin in the Far East of Russia, as well as in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Each bird of this long living species (with an average life duration of 60 years) is precious, so when one by the name Lily was found with a broken upper beak that prevented her from feeding, a quick response was required from researchers from South China University of Technology and Leader Animal Hospital in Guangzhou, China. They used two different types of additive manufacturing: fused deposition modelling (FDM) for design prototyping and trials using polymer (PLA), and then selected laser melting (SLM) for the manufacture of the final prosthesis from a high performance aerospace titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V). Within a short period time they were able to fabricate and install the final version of the bespoke titanium alloy beak, allowing the bird to begin feeding again within half an hour of the operation.

This interesting piece of research highlights the agility and versatility of additive manufacturing in patient care that can find its place not only in future medical practice, but also in niche areas such as veterinary rehabilitation, from regular treatment for pets, cattle and horses to customized remediation for rare animal species, such as Grus japonensis.

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Changhui Song, Anming Wang, Zijun Wu, Ziyu Chen, Yongqiang Yang, Di Wang, Design and additive manufacturing of titanium alloy beak prosthesis for Grus japonensis,

Materials & Design,