When she was six years old Beauty the bald eagle experienced something traumatic; she was shot in the face by a hunter and the upper part of her beak was destroyed. By the time she was located and taken to a care center, she was emaciated. Without her beak Beauty was unable to eat or clean herself.
Birds of Prey Northwest medic Jane Fink Cantwell took Beauty in and nursed her back to health, but it wasn't enough. Cantwell wished for a way to reconstruct Beauty's beak so that she could lead a normal life. She began to seek advice from industry experts and was repeatedly told to euthanize beauty because nothing could be done. That is, until she traveled to Boise, Idaho to teach a seminar on endangered raptors.
An engineer named Nate Calvin was in the audience, along with his two daughters. Calvin is the founder of Kinetic Engineering Group and while he didn't have any experience with bald eagles, he believed he just might have a solution for Beauty.
Calvin approached Jane Cantwell after the seminar, saying "I think I can help you with Beauty if you are interested?" Cantwell leapt at the offer and together with a team of engineers, wildlife experts and even a dentist, they managed to create something wonderful.
They took X-rays of Beauty's head and Calvin used Solidworks to design a replica of what Beauty's beak should look like. Then he used a 3D printer to build a plastic prosthetic.
Beauty underwent a two hour procedure to attach the newly-printed beak prosthetic. She lay strapped to the table as the team patiently worked to fit the prosthetic to what was left of her beak. Again and again they filed the prosthetic down, adjusted it, tested it and eventually, it worked. For the first time since her accident, Beauty was able to drink water and preen herself like a normal eagle.
You can view a video of Beauty getting her new beak here:
3D printing is helping out with a variety of humanitarian projects right now. Thanks to 3D printing, Buttercup the Duck has a new prosthetic foot and a company called Robohand is producing 3D printed robotic hands for children with birth defects.