The Art Institute of Colorado Student/Faculty Team Creates 3D Printer Prosthetic Leg for Kitten

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Interior Design

June 9, 2016

Recently, The Art Institute of Colorado and the Denver Animal Shelter joined together to help a four month old kitten named Sonic, who was born with a deformed front leg. Nearly three months later, “The Sonic Project” had its first success—when Sonic the cat was fitted with a new prosthetic leg.

The relationship between the organizations began when a team from The Art Institute of Colorado visited Denver Animal Shelter to meet with director Madeleine Binsfrahm. She discussed a public art project for the shelter as she toured The Art Institute of Colorado team through the facility.

During the tour, the team viewed the shelter’s surgical unit. Gregg Harvey, design instructor, The Art Institute of Colorado, mentioned that students at the school could produce 3D printed limbs to assist disabled animals. Soon, Dr. Luisa Poon, a veterinarian at the shelter, contacted Harvey to see what could be done for Sonic the cat.

Creating the Prosthetic Limb

Sonic’s deformity severely impacted his ability to walk and have a normal life. Harvey discussed Sonic’s situation with student Salim Fermin, who is working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Design & Technical Graphics. Fermin had expressed interest in creating prosthetics—and the opportunity to assist Sonic was too exciting to pass up.

In April 2016, Sonic was evaluated by Harvey and Fermin. They considered functional design solutions, took measurements, and captured images of the kitten. Later that month, they returned to the shelter with a 3D printed part that had been modeled by Fermin. It was placed onto Sonic—but the team quickly found that the prosthetic’s strap system needed to hold the cat’s elbow in a different way.

One week later, the second prototype was tested, but it still didn’t fully accommodate Sonic’s unique foot pronation or rapid growth. “But as we watched Sonic’s reactions, we knew we were getting closer to a functional solution,” says Harvey.

More Trials—Then Success

Harvey and Fermin continued creating prototypes and on June 1, 2016, in front of media and other supporters, Sonic was fitted with a prosthetic that restored his mobility “Part of our ongoing design process was to incorporate physical therapy provided by the shelter’s veterinarian, to help Sonic develop weight bearing capabilities of his affected limb,” states Harvey.

He adds that Sonic’s first steps were a testament to the design process, compassion, and creativity that happens within the community at The Art Institute of Colorado.


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By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Interior Design

June 9, 2016

denver design industrial design