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How One Entrepreneur Uses 3D Printing to Improve Animals’ Lives

Kelsey Pommer, Sr. Coordinator, Digital Media Marketing, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™

Derrick Campana’s clients at his orthotics and prosthetics practice are slightly different than you usually see in the standard medical office – and a lot furrier. Derrick’s practice, Animal Orthocare, is one of a few practices in the world who cater specifically to the orthotic and prosthetic needs of animals.

Animal Orthocare is now utilizing 3D printing technology to create better, stronger and more customized products for their adorable clients. Recently, CEA member and CES exhibitor, 3D Systems, approached Animal Orthocare to help create 3D printing prosthetics for one special dog, Derby. You can see Derby’s entire story in the video below (you may want to grab some tissues first).

Derby was even invited to the White House!

Happy #NationalPuppyDay! This #WHScienceFair pup celebrated by showing off his 3D-printed paws.

A video posted by The White House (@whitehouse) on

We got the opportunity to visit the Animal OrthoCare office in Chantilly, Virginia, see the technology they are using and learn a little more about 3D printed prosthetics from Derrick Campana, president of Animal Orthocare:

How did you get into your field?

"I started as a technician building prosthetic and orthotic devices for a company called Hanger Orthopedic group. I then went to Northwestern Medical School for my Orthotics certification. After that, I went through my one-year residency and passed my board exams to become a practitioner. I also later went to UCONN for my prosthetic degree. I worked as a human practitioner for a couple of years and one day a veterinarian brought her dog "Charles" into our office to fit him with a prosthesis for a congenital deformity of his paw. I had never made such a device, but was up for the challenge. I successful fabricated the prosthesis and Charles was able to walk much better with it. This was in 2005. The veterinarian said that no one does this anywhere, so a lightbulb went off and I thought to start Animal Orthocare. At that time there was only one other company doing this worldwide and they started only about six months before Animal Orthocare. We have been growing rapidly ever since."

Why did you start using 3D printing technology for prosthetics?

"We were approached by the company 3D Systems about a dog named Derby who was also born with a congenital deformity of his front limbs. Prosthetics needed to be fabricated and Derby’s foster mother worked for 3D Systems. She thought, why can't we use this technology to help Derby? She contacted me and from there I was able to cast Derby's limbs. With the help of 3D Systems we were able to design new legs for Derby."

Tell us a little about Derby and his experience with his new legs.

"We started with just the sockets for his arms to fit into. We placed tread on the bottom of the sockets so that it would be an easier transition once the shank sections were designed and added to the sockets. Once he got used to wearing these, we added the shanks. We started off low so as to not add to much change and stress to his body. From there, we added height (we had to find the correct height that was tolerable to him and functional at the same time). He gets around great, but we are still working with him. We are currently making hybrid style prosthetics that incorporate 3D printed parts with traditional vacuum formable plastics. We feel that this will add to the longevity of the device as well as add comfort. We are even going to add springs/shocks to increase functionality and increase the amount of wear time he can tolerate the devices for."
What does the future hold for Animal OrthoCare? What is the next step in using the 3D printing technology?

"We really like the ability to have limitless design capabilities through the 3D software. This control over the design lets us treat a broader range of patients that we may not have been able to treat before (very small dogs, etc.) To be able to print these parts and incorporate them into our prosthetic and orthotic devices can give these pets in need a much higher chance of success.

I am very excited about the future of the field of Veterinary Orthotics and prosthetics (V-OP). With this technology, we are going to be able to design/manufacture a wider array of devices to help injured pets get back on all fours – from custom to off-the-shelf devices. We will be working hard to reach this goal and should be coming out with some very exciting products in the near future."
Check out the Animal Orthocare Instagram page for more adorable pictures of the animals they have helped and learn more about technology can help change the world at 

This article was originally posted on the CEA Blog on April 13, 2015.