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3-D Printer Used To Create Titanium Turtle Jaw

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

How do you make a prosthetic jaw strong enough to survive in the ocean but light enough to allow freedom of movement? You start with a 3-D printer. Shaping metal to such exacting specifications would, in other times, have been the work of a skilled artisan; recently, thanks to advances in 3-D printing technology, researchers were able to create a functional prosthesis for an injured turtle in only two months.

There was just one question: Who had the expertise to meld together industrial fabrication with veterinary science?

Enter BTech Innovations. This Turkish medical biotechnology corporation specializes in crafting custom-designed prostheses and implants. It began by performing a series of detailed CT scans to map the structure of the turtle’s jaw and skull; with that information, the BTech team created a bespoke virtual prosthesis that perfectly matched the contours of the wounded turtle’s face.

The turtle — named AKUT3 by its rescuers at Pamukkale University’s Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Pamukkale, Turkey — was maimed last year by a boat propeller while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Jagged scars ran across its upper and lower jaws where the errant propeller had shorn away nearly half of its mouth. Without a prosthesis, AKUT3 would never eat on its own again.

After a two-and-a-half hour surgery, AKUT3 emerged from the operating room as the first of its species to benefit from 3-D printing techniques — but he’s not the first turtle to sport a prosthesis.

That title goes to Allison, a loggerhead sea turtle living at the Sea Turtle Inc. rehabilitation center at South Padre Island, Texas. Allison lost three of her fins to a shark attack in 2005. With only one functional limb, she could barely swim.

A solution wasn’t discovered until Jef George, the director of Sea Turtle Inc. reached out to a retired engineer. The engineer crafted a special dorsal-fin prosthesis that wrapped around Allison’s shell and provided the stability necessary for the turtle to swim in something other than circles.
What surprised George most was not how the pros- thesis helped Allison, but how Allison’s prosthesis made her visitors feel.

“The thing that surprised me most is how quickly Allison is able to form a bond with people with prosthetic devices,” George says. “There is a bond when people like veterans come to our center, people wounded by life, and they see how Allison has persevered.”

Robotic Dive Buddy

Friday, August 7th, 2015

CADDY project

Can submersible drone technology help make solo diving a safer activity? Researchers at Divers Alert Network Europe are testing an underwater drone and floating satellite designed to understand the body language of a scuba diver in distress.

The Cognitive Autonomous Diving Buddy, or CADDY, is actually two drones — one on the surface, one near the diver — which work in tandem to monitor and respond to any unsafe conditions experienced during a dive. The underwater drone is capable of assessing a diver’s behavior for any signs of distress, and the surface drone maintains a communication link to a command center or surface team. Together, the two drones ensure that a diver is in constant communication with outside sources, even if the diver is disabled or harmed.

The CADDY project replaces a human buddy diver with an autonomous underwater vehicle and adds a new autonomous surface vehicle to improve monitoring, assistance, and safety of the diver’s mission.

“When you consider that half of diving accidents involve unaccompanied scuba divers, CADDY will surely revolutionize the underwater experience,” says Professor Salih Murat Engi, the project’s principal coordinator.

In case of emergency, the drones are equipped with lights, cameras and navigation systems, and are able to guide a diver back to safety.

The project is a collaborative effort between DAN Europe, a nonprofit medical and research organization, and the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7, which focuses on cognitive systems and robotics research.

“Diver safety is an essential component of the CADDY project and whenever diver safety is involved, DAN steps in,” Engi says. “We’re here to represent the diving community and assist in building future technologies that will take diving to the next level.”

For more information on this project, visit