Injured penguin. Source: Warsaw Zoo
Injured penguin. Source: Warsaw Zoo

A penguin in the Warsaw zoo lost its beak, either in a fight or by falling. Without its beak, the penguin had trouble feeding itself and drinking water. It was unlikely that the penguin would survive.

But with 3D printing, the penguin has a second chance at life with a customized, 3D printed beak. Polish scientists are planning to use the Omni3D printer to create a prosthetic beak, which was modeled using another penguin’s beak from 12 different angles in order to create a 3D model.

“We had gone to the zoo to see if they could use any of our 3D technology, and didn't know anything about the bird at first,” Bartek Jarkiewicz, from the firm MTT Polska and the man in charge of the beak project, told The Telegraph. “Then they said they had a penguin with a problem and asked if we could come up with a new beak.”

The scientists will 3D print the new beak out of eco-plastic next week. They are prepared to print several versions of the beak in case the first one falls off or the material isn’t suitable. If needed, they will use nylon and silicone to create the beak if the eco-plastic doesn’t work well.

But fitting the new beak to the penguin will be a challenge. The penguin still has remnants of his beak, and this may prove to make the fitting a challenge. “It would be very difficult to immobilize a live penguin,” said Jarkiewicz.

This is not the first time a 3D printed beak has been created for a bird. In 2012, researchers, engineers, and dentists created a beak for Beauty, a bald eagle who had lost her beak after having been shot by a poacher. The beak helped Beauty clean herself and drink water the day after the surgery. Scientists are hoping this penguin will have similar success with its 3D printed beak.