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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Disabled duck gets new foot thanks to 3D printing

About The Author

CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary)

Born with a backwards foot, Buttercup could only walk in great pain — until his owner came up with a novel idea for a duckie prosthetic.

When he was born in a high school biology lab in November last year, little Buttercup wasn't like all the other ducklings: his left foot was turned backwards, making getting around a bit of a trial for the little guy. Although his carer at the school worked on turning the foot around the right way, it couldn't quite get there.

Baby Buttercup.
(Credit: Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary)

So when he was transferred to Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Arlington, Tennessee, new owner Mike Garey realised pretty quickly that something had to be done.

"With his deformed foot, he would have been in pain and had constant cuts and foot infections walking on the side of it even at our sanctuary here; and foot infections on these guys is always a serious matter," Garey said.

After Buttercup had his foot amputated in February, Garey — a software engineer by trade — started looking into options for a replacement limb. Sure, Buttercup could have a peg leg; but what if Garey could replace the entire foot?

After shopping around for a service, he found 3D printing company NovaCopy, which agreed to donate its services to helping Buttercup walk again. Together, using photos of the left foot of Buttercup's sister Minnie, they designed a brand new left foot for Buttercup.

The replica of Minnie's foot that will be used to create a prosthetic for Buttercup.
(Credit: Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary)

Because the foot needs to be flexible, the usual plastics used in 3D printing aren't viable. Instead, NovaCopy printed a mould, which will be used to cast a silicone foot for the lucky duck, creating several iterations of the design to come up with the perfect one. It will be attached to his foot via a silicone sheath.

"This version will have a stretchy silicone sock instead of the finger trap, which will roll up on his leg, be inserted into the foot and then have a fastener in the bottom," Garey said. "If you saw Dolphin Tail, this material is similar to the WintersGel that they used." WintersGel is a prosthetic liner that grips the amputated limb.

Buttercup, currently walking around on his stump, is due to get his new foot very soon, with the final design arriving in the next two weeks. You can follow Buttercup's story on his Facebook page.


Add Your Comment 5

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MikeG1 posted a comment   

Buttercup now has a fully 3D printed prosthetic. Check out his page at for the latest video!


Coke Ray posted a comment   
United States

I would like to see Buttercup with his new foot attached. Can you do a follow-up with photo?


Monicad posted a reply


Monicad posted a reply   

and.... :)


AlanC4 posted a comment   

Heartwarming story :)

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