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Purps the penguin healed at Mystic Aquarium with some help from local kids, 3D printer

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MYSTIC--Purps is getting back into action!

Thanks to a partnership between a local 3-D printing company, aquarium and middle school, a 23-year-old African penguin will be able to move around more freely again.

Yellow/Purple, more commonly called "Purps the penguin," was involved in a spat with another penguin and suffered an injury to her ankle. Veterinarians at Mystic Aquarium tried to help her by making a boot with a moldable plastic, and while it worked it wasn't very comfortable and flexible, inhibiting Purps' movement.

That's where Mystic Middle School and the ACT Group, a Connecticut-based 3-D equipment and service company that resells printers from 3D Systems (which also worked on the partnership), came in. The aquarium and Mystic Middle School have a long-standing partnership, and it just so happens the school recently got a 3-D printer from the ACT Group, opening up the world of possibilities for the endangered animal!

"Our goal is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research," said Kelly Matis, vice president of education and conservation at the Mystic Aquarium. "In this project we achieved each of these desired outcomes while benefiting the health and well-being of one of our endangered species."

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Together, the three groups created a special, custom-made boot for Purps using 3-D printing technology.

"The students truly amazed us in how their creative thinking, imagination and intuitiveness led this process," said Nick Gondek, director of additive manufacturing and applications engineer at the ACT Group. "It was rewarding to provide them with a technology that could keep up with their ingenuity, and to watch them pick up the software so quickly. It further demonstrates the need to have students learning to digitally design and manufacture at a younger age."

To make the boot, they used 3D Systems' scanning technology to upload a cast of Purps' foot, then used Geomagic Sculpt to design the lightweight boot, and finally used the company's printing technology to physically create the boot.

"This project demonstrates how our end-to-end 3-D printing solutions provide a seamless workflow that can enable enhanced results from the classroom to the lab to the factory floor," said Derek Johnson, director of product management and professional printers for 3D Systems.

Now, Purps can walk and swim like her fellow African penguins!

"As soon as we took off her old boot and put her in the new boot, she really just took off across the exam room looking very comfortable in her new boot and walking much more like a normal penguin should walk," said Dr. Jen Flower, the chief clinical veterinarian at Mystic Aquarium.

"When I saw her just walking with the boot that we all designed ... it made me feel very happy to see this working," added Sadie, a student at Mystic Middle School.

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