Take That Mario! 3D Printed Red Tortoise Shell Armor!

3D printed turtle shell

Between all the media coverage of using 3D printers for human prosthetics, some individuals are making a difference for animals too by using 3D printing. And here’s one we really didn’t expect;  a replacement shell for a tortoise!

We’ve all seen the heartwarming articles about pups getting wheels, or dogs getting replacement sprung feet — but is there any love for [Cleopatra] the Tortoise? Canyon Critters Rescue is an animal rescue based out of Golden, Colorado. The founder [Novelli] had recently took in little [Cleopatra] who had a painful and dangerous bone disease where her shell peaks and gets worn out — and without a shell to protect her, could easily become infected. This is typically caused by poor nutrition, so the rescue fixed her diet, but the damage to her shell was already done.

At a public education program for the rescue, [Novelli] made an offhand comment about how cool it would be to 3D print a replacement shell for her to protect the weak spots. Lucky enough for [Cleopatra], someone from the Colorado Technical University was there and wanted to help.

First they 3D scanned [Cleopatra’s] shell, and then created a 3D model of it optimized for 3D printing. They printed miniature test models on a MakerBot, and once satisfied printed the entire thing in 4 pieces. It fits over top of original shell, protecting the weak areas.

It was an incredible learning experience for all involved, and [Novelli] was extremely grateful for the help he received from the community:

I am grateful to all these people volunteering their time and energy to help me. At the rescue I don’t have the resources or funds to do something of this scale.

As for [Cleopatra], she’s living a happy tortoise life once again — and since she’s only in her teens, she has nearly a century of life to look forward to with thanks to 3D printing.

20 thoughts on “Take That Mario! 3D Printed Red Tortoise Shell Armor!

  1. So I assume the shell will change shape as she ages so she will need a new one sooner or later, also, since the shell changes with age how do they keep it on in the long term? Anyway better than turtle soup.

    1. From the article…
      Noveilli told us that a typical tortoise like her can live well into her 80’s and would be expected to grow in size by another 200-300%. This means that new shells will eventually have to be printed out as she ages.

      1. That’s assuming the new growth are still susceptible to problem. It is possible that due to improved nutrition, new growth would help protect existing weak spot and she wouldn’t need the plastic shell after some years.

  2. Impressive. Also impressive how Canyon Critters appears to run their rescue, bringing in funds through education and entertainment. Though I’m sure they’re not rich by any means, it’s a nice contrast to most shelters, which subsist on donations alone.

      1. This household deals only with small shelters, I know very little about the ASPCA. Inspecting their 2013 balance sheets, it looks like even if they gave away their *entire gross income*, it wouldn’t go very far versus the huge number of sheltered animals in the US. Assuming this totally unrealistic scenario, that’s maybe $5/year per animal? Unless there’s some aspect I’m missing, if so please educate me.

  3. I totally understand 3D printed prosthetics, and it’s great to see them applied to humans and dogs. But can someone please explain to me how this is superior to, I dunno, a salad bowl, or hot-gluing some little bits of plastic armor over the points on the shell? It’s not really a functional shape like a hand or leg, it’s just armor. This seems like an unnecessarily complicated solution to the problem.

    1. The dumb ass above calls everyone a troll for some reason. Don’t take it personally. He does not appear to understand what the word means so he uses it inappropriately.

    2. It is only here because it is 3d printed. Hackaday news wouldn’t report on “I made a wooden leg for a dog” because people have been doing it for years, same goes for tortoise shell repair I suppose. Don’t see them much in England any more as it is illegal to import them and breeding is rare so they are really expensive to buy.

      1. Like pigeons in the park, feed one troll and see how many more appear.

        If this was machined with a mill out of wood it would be as equally cool. It is here because it is a hack made with a robot that normally would be difficult to make as the topology of the shell is not conducive to a single solution.

        When other turtles mount the turtle you want the pressure distributed equally across the shell so it doesn’t create anymore wear points and further thinning of the shell. A bowl will clearly not do this.

        Can all the trolls please go back to hitting themselves in the head with a tack hammer now?

    3. I’d have thought an easier solution would have been glass fibre or some other composite, that’s easy to mould over any irregular shape (lay mat over shape, apply resin to mat, allow to cure, done) and would likely be stronger and lighter. But, as another commenter said, if it hadn’t been 3D printed no-one would have given a shit (HaD are not alone in this, BBC news have a massive hardon for anything 3D printered no matter how banal)

      1. Yeah, 3D printed doesn’t make it better than a cast made of plaster or fiberglass in my mind. maybe it’s just easy to remove as the shell changes with age? But a tortoise shell is not just “armor” it is actually part of the spine and ribcage of the animal as well as being “skin” for the back and underside. They aren’t like a hermit crab where they can just ditch their existing shell for a new one. Without the shell, it would die rather quickly and horribly…

  4. http://www.anapsid.org/shellrepair.html

    The above site describes a common repair a local vet practices on tortoises, sterilized fiberglass and resin.

    The 3D printed shell does seem to offer a couple of advantages over fiberglass, the ability to move the shell when necessary and “cooling” holes. I honestly don’t know the value of that not knowing tortoise anatomy. :|

  5. I’d actually worry more about the thermal absorption characteristics of the plastic “coat”, if this tortoise goes outside in the sun. Wouldn’t want to cook the tortoise, with not way for it to radiate away heat.

  6. Maybe the gaudy red is a thermal rationale. Otherwise it’s hideous.
    They need air thru the shell, so paint or turtle wax is a no no.
    I assume the “shell” is attached in limited places.
    The peaks are the starts of each shell piece, the growth is at the sutures where each “tile” joins others. I assume the peaks will be forever sore, as they are the oldest part of the turtle shell. I would think fast setting epoxy on the peaks and some around would work in the long run, and of course touch-up with the right colors.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.