Formlans 3D printed bird prosthetic - Hornbill

3D printed prosthesis saves hornbill from cancer

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Digitally designed prostheses are being used to save endangered animals such as Crescent, the Indian Hornbill who received a 3D printed casque prosthetic thanks to Formlabs technology

Also known as concave-casqued, the Indian hornbill is a large bird originally from South East Asia, with a big yellow and black U-shaped casque.

Though it’s still unsure what the exact function of the casque is, except being probably a result of sexual selection, damage to it can be fatal for hornbills.

Crescent, a hornbill from the Tampa Zoological Park in Florida, has been suffering from cancer which affected her casque. Experts at ZooTampa, in collaboration with a medical team from the University of South Florida (USF), have employed 3D printing technology from Formlabs to carry out a first-of-its-kind restorative surgery to treat her cancer.

Crescent hornbill formlabs
Crescent looking dapper in her new headwear

Crescent’s tumour was thought to be squamous cell carcinoma, common skin cancer in humans that’s usually deadly in hornbills. To save her it was essential to remove the tumour, but the location at the back of Crescent’s casque would expose her sinuses.

Formlabs provided medical experts with the right technology to create a prosthetic casque that would allow Crescent to live normally post-surgery.

USF Health and Formlabs procedure started with a CT scan to 3D print a surgical guide for the procedure and to design Crescent’s new casque. William Fox-Alvarez, who was assisted by Dr Kaitlyn McNamara, USF senior surgical resident, said that without the pre-surgical planning and 3D printed guides, the surgery would have been “much more challenging”.


Formlabs also donated a new material, BioMed White Resin, which met the unique needs of this prosthetic implant, being suitably lightweight, durable, and biocompatible.

“Clinical literature has shown improved outcomes when patient-specific prosthetics, medical devices, and surgical guides have been used with human patients,” says Formlabs director Gaurav Manchanda.

“We’re thrilled that our technology was also able to bring these same benefits to Crescent, who also uncovered a unique, unexpected benefit that warmed the hearts of everyone involved.”

ZooTampa reports Crescent is doing well, there were no changes in her behaviour, appetite, or vocalisations. The experts also noticed an unexpected consequence: the Formlabs resin happens to be compatible with the yellow preening oils secreted from the glands above Crescent’s tail, which has given the new casque the same bright glow as her original one.

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