New Jersey

La Jolla Sea Turtle Gets World's First 3-D Printed Shell Brace

Brace yourself! A local Loggerhead sea turtle is the first to wear a 3-D printed brace on her turtle shell. 

The 15-year-old female was found floating at a New Jersey power plant in 2013. She was a baby with a large gap in her shell and damage to her flipper, the result of an unknown injury in the wild. 

She was adopted by the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla and has grown 130 pounds since then. 

"That gap was creating more of a curve in her spine as she grew," said Jenn Nero Moffatt, director of animal conservation and science at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. "She's not done growing and we realized we needed to fill that gap." 

The aquarium teamed up with the U.C. San Diego library's digital media team to design a 3-D printed brace that fits perfectly into the gap. The turtle most likely does not notice it is there and will not be in pain with it on. 

The fitting is glued down with eproxy, which also helps with her swimming abilities. 

"She was floating before so the benefit of the 3-D print is that it actually helped her stay down," added Nero Moffatt. 

Anyone can see the sea turtle at her habitat seven days a week at the Birch Aquarium. 

Contact Us