Grecia the toucan is back in the news.
The bird was featured in a Controlled Environments blog post in May 2015, as an example of animals that have received new body parts via 3D printing. After being cruelly attacked by a group of young people in Costa Rica, Grecia the toucan lost part of his beak, endangering not only his ability to eat but also the way he controls his body temperature. Several 3D-printing companies immediately offered to craft a prosthesis for the bird, who is being taken care of by an animal sanctuary called Zoo Ave. The bird’s anatomy was, at one point, considered too complex for a prosthetic beak, but 3D printing enables the creation a more detailed device.
Now, Animal Planet has announced that it is airing a documentary on the bird, entitled “Toucan Nation,” Aug. 24. The film will tell the story of Grecia’s recovery, the process to outfit him with a revolutionary 3D-printed beak, and Costa Rican citizens’ efforts to present such cruelty from happening to another animal.
Toucans use their beaks to eat, of course, but the beaks also serve a surprising purpose as a type of climate control system, to keep the birds either cool or warm as weather conditions demand. Grecia’s broken beak needed to be cleaned every day by his caretakers, to avoid infection.
Images of the toucan and his broken bill went viral after Rescate Animal Zoo Ave posted photos of his injuries. Animal activists were outraged upon learning of the abuse that Grecia endured, and protests and calls for anti-animal abuse legislation sprung up.
An exchange student studying in Costa Rica caught wind of Grecia’s story and soon set up a crowdfunding campaign to finance a custom-fitted prosthetic beak for the toucan. The campaign raised over $10,000 (more than 200 percent of its original goal), which is more than enough to pay for a 3D-printed beak.
Since Grecia cannot return to living in the wild, the zoo has announced that the bird will soon be housed in a new habitat which will be built around a tropical forest patch.
3D Systems of South Carolina says its digital manufacturing solutions played a crucial role in the bird’s rehabilitation of Grecia. The company assisted Grecia’s rehabilitation along with Central America-based Grupo SG, a 3D Systems partner and reseller, “by helping to devise a custom prosthetic for the injured toucan using the company’s end-to-end digital manufacturing solutions.” The company worked with a team of Costa Rican product designers, dentists, and nanotechnology experts to develop a suitable prosthetic beak design. The beak had to fit Grecia’s residual anatomy; it also needed to be strong, biocompatible, and have a smooth surface finish that could repel contamination and bacteria growth. Grupo SG took 3D scans of the bird, plus a scan of an intact toucan, and then sent the scans to 3D so they could manufacture an attachable prosthetic beak with custom mechanical components.
Thanks to these efforts, Grecia has a full bill again, and he can now feed and preen himself without human assistance.