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Local Missouri dog gets new foot thanks to 3-D printing

February 23, 2018

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — “You want to get a new foot? Want to get a new foot?” cooed Kendra Earl Warlow as she bent over and petted Tucker, her five-year-old Australian shepherd.

Tucker bounced energetically around a basement lab in Noyes Hall, introducing himself to each and every person in the room. Born without several bones in his hind right foot, Tucker has spent his life hopping on three legs.

Warlow picked up Tucker when he was only eight months old and has stuck close to him ever since.

“He was the last one left in the litter. Nobody wanted him because of his foot,” she said. “Nothing stops him.”

She laughed as she told stories of Tucker racing around the yard and house with her second, younger Australian shepherd, Indie, not letting his missing foot slow him down.

The damage to Tucker’s leg, while manageable, continues to cause pain through Tucker’s back and into his hind quarter. He is on a number of medications and Warlow worries that the missing foot will only worsen the pain for Tucker, if not lead to even more serious problems.

While working on her master’s thesis in Ellis Library, Warlow saw members of the Mizzou 3D Printing Club working with the 3-D printers in the library. She had an idea. She walked up to a member and asked, “Hey, I got a dog. He doesn’t have a foot, want to make one?”

That was a little over a year ago. Recently, Tucker tried out his newest prosthetic prototypes.

The Columbia Missourian reports that Tucker, who has not previously used a prosthetic, switched between standing and lying down, waiting as Warlow tested out each new option. The club prepared three different prototypes to try out during the meeting.

“Today we would like to test fit different cavity sizes and see which best fits him,” said Andrew Dove, project leader, before testing out the prosthetics. The three prototypes prepared were created from a cast made around Tucker’s leg.

The prosthetic team consists of seven members who have spent the past year working with Tucker and Marlow to develop a prosthesis that will hopefully improve his mobility and his quality of life.

After creating what the group now laughingly refers to as their “Robo-Cop leg,” collaboration with a Hanger Clinic — an orthotic and prosthetic organization — and several adjustments to both form and material has led to the most recent prototype. The most recent round of feet has moved away from the white plastic and metal combination of the initial prototype toward a blue PLA filament, which is easier to work with — a big advantage when in the preliminary phase.

As Tucker lay alert on the floor, the group found the best fit and continued to take note of measurements and changes that would improve both the feel and practicality of the design.

“Simpler is better,” Dove said while brainstorming with team members. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but this is much better.”

In the final few minutes of the meeting, as Tucker resumed circling the room and barked loud enough to echo through neighboring rooms, the team implemented one final idea: They cut off the bottom of the foot and replaced it with a rubber ball.

The group waited and the air lightened as Warlow laughed and said he was putting more weight on now than any previous attempt.

Dove let out a cheer as he felt the pressure Tucker was putting on his new “house slipper.”

“That was what I was waiting for.”


Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

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