29th January 2014

The adorable pluck of Dudley the Duck

By Michael Wood on Wednesday January 29, 2014

It was reported in a number of newspapers and online outlets recently that a poor bullied duck in Canada has finally been able to stand on his own two feet, all thanks to 3D printing.

The feathered critter, named Dudley by his carers at K9-1-1 Animal and Rescue Services in British Columbia, ran ‘afowl’ (geddit!?) of a thuggish gang of chickens when he was fresh out of the egg, losing his leg in the fight.

He was still able to swim – presumably in a circle – but getting around on land was a webbed step too far.

However, thanks to the generosity of a local mechanical engineer, Terence Loring, Dudley now has a new lease on life. Loring volunteered to design him a new leg, partnering with British Columbia firm, Proto3000, which offered to produce the components for free…using its 3D printer.

This duck leg might not be quite so tasty with orange sauce…

More formally known as ‘additive manufacture’, this revolutionary technology allows three-dimensional solid objects of almost any shape to be literally printed from a digital model, enabling the production of individual prototypes or customised components easily and cheaply.

The technology enabled Loring and Proto3000 to make a number of sample prosthetics for Dudley quickly, all at a fraction of the cost of using more traditional methods, allowing them to find the best design for the job.

What’s more, they can keep manufacturing larger copies of the winning blueprint as Dudley grows, so he’ll always have a leg to stand on.

This story of Dudley the Plucky Duck isn’t just good international PR for the animal shelter and Proto3000, it serves as a perfect demonstration of the scope and versatility of 3D printing.

The fact that Loring and Protec3000 could make something as small and seemingly insignificant as a prosthetic leg for a duck shows 3D printing newbies how easy and cost-effective it is to use. And their ability to print so many prototypes and copies, each subtly different from the one before, further proves its flexibility as a manufacturing tool.

3D printing has been making waves in a growing number of industries over the last decade or so, as the cost of machines has decreased.

However, light-hearted news stories like this, even carried by tabloid titles, can raise the technology’s profile among a much broader audience, introducing it to consumers, as well as decision makers in new manufacturing sectors and markets.

Such coverage showcases the possibilities it offers to a whole new industry, expanding its customer base, and, hopefully, bringing 3D printing one step closer to world domination.

For the time being, though, let’s rejoice that Dudley the Duck is now able to make some waves of his own!