Kaukauna High School senior creates prosthetic leg with 3D printer for three-legged puppy

Published: Mar. 16, 2018 at 4:37 PM CDT
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A Golden Retriever puppy born with three legs is on his way to finally fitting in to a four-legged world, thanks to a Kaukauna High School senior.

The 11-month-old Golden Retriever, named ‘Grey,’ was born with only three legs. Grey quickly wooed his forever family through a combination calm and charm.

"When we were there to look at him, while all the other puppies were flying around, he just gently sat at our legs and just enjoyed being petted so we knew he was a very mellow dog, which would fit very well with our family," said Stephen Cove, Grey’s owner.

Grey does fine with three legs, but Cove wanted to give him the feeling of being complete. Cove was connected with Kaukauna High School engineering teacher, Nels Lawrence, after Lawrence heard about Grey through puppy training class.

"We got a new puppy at our house, the trainer was telling us about Grey, and I just kind of casually said, we have a 3D printer, we could do something with that dog and that's how we got going," said Lawrence.

Lawrence’s student, Kaukauna High School senior, Ben Brochtrup accepted the challenge.

"Mr. Lawrence's CAP engineering group was tasked with the idea of making a device that would help someone with a disability, so this project kind of just came along and fit in that category, just not necessarily a person but an animal," said Brochtrup.

"It's real engineering, we're not just talking about engineering, we're actually engineering something that's going to work and that's the exciting part about it," said Lawrence.

Brochtrup designed and built the leg from start to finish with a 3D printer.

"It's actually a little string of plastic, the 3D printer melts the plastic and it works like a CNC machine, it lays down a layer, then it moves up a layer," said Lawrence.

The prosthetic will be able to adjust to Grey’s height as he grows.

“I designed it to be pretty modular and so what I mean by that is that parts can be swapped in and out so as the dog grows up, the prosthetic can grow with him per say, so what that allows is even comfort throughout the dog's entire life. One of the problems I faced was that the dog kept growing and so one of the ways I combated that was through this modular design," said Brochtrup.

The project started five months ago, but with a few more tweaks, Grey will be able to use his new 3D printed leg.

"The comfort isn't quite there yet, so we're still working on that, but we're definitely getting closer to the end and we have to get it approved by a small animal vet first just to make sure that it's safe and it's not going to affect his limbs and stuff but I think it's going to work pretty well,” adds Brochtrup.

"It's just been incredible to see what's available here at Kaukauna High School, I had no idea, and I have to keep reminding myself that we're working with high school students, I mean it's absolutely amazing," said Cove.

Brochtrup plans on studying aerospace engineering after graduating high school, as for Grey, belly rubs, lots of running and free kisses will continue.