Every dog deserves to play. An important part of their day-to-day life, play helps to relieve a dog’s stress levels, improve their physical well-being and keep their minds sharp and focused. But for many dogs around the world who find themselves with less than 4 limbs, the road to play can be a challenging one. Luckily, the last decade or so has seen many innovations in the area of pet mobility – from prosthetics to carts. We caught up with the team at 3D Pets, a pet mobility company based out of New Jersey (USA), to learn more about how they are working to ensure that more pets can enjoy the benefits of play.
3D Pets first began as a project for industrial designers Alex Tholl and Adam Hecht, who are the co-founders of 3D-printing firm Dive Design. In 2019, a prosthetist reached out to them sharing his difficulties with building full-limb prosthetics and custom carts for pets. Using their background in advanced manufacturing and technology, Alex and Adam developed a software that could not only produce a device to meet this need, but could also be built quickly and with minimal waste.
With the goal of helping as many pets as possible, 3D Pets was officially launched in 2021 to offer these life-changing devices at scale. And while the company’s primary focus is currently dogs with front full-limb amputations or deformities, they have also worked with some ducks, turtles, and goats and hope to continue to expand their offering to include cats, horses and other animals. The company also partners with several rescue organizations to support and raise money for disabled animals of all types to obtain mobility devices.
“A lot of animals we see come from traumatic and/or life-threatening situations and restoring their quality of life is not only incredibly rewarding to us but life-changing for our pets as well. Seeing an animal want to play because of the relief and support their device offers them is the most incredible thing we have ever seen. We have pets that are now able to enjoy and compete in runs with their owners, go for hikes to see waterfalls, play fetch and keep up with their companions.”
And while there are many pet mobility manufacturers on the market, not all devices are created equal. Some similar products can sometimes be heavy and rigid, inhibiting natural movement so that they are harder for the animal to adopt. What makes 3D Pets’ approach unique is in fact their software, coupled with tools like 3D-scanning and 3D-printing, which allows for a more flexible and supportive prosthetic.
“Because of our specific allocations for material as determined by our software, our devices are much more lightweight and breathable. Most importantly, our devices are modular and allow for the owner to make modifications as their pet needs. In order to better serve the various types of cases we see, we offer different attachments for our devices including wheels for our more geriatric or smaller pets, skis for our pets that live in colder climates, and our shock absorbing feet for the majority.”
With a production timeline of about 4-6 weeks, the 3D Pets’ team is currently making around 20-30 of these devices each month – and the demand only continues to grow. Their process typically starts with a cast – either done in-studio or at home. “We work with a non-profit called Go Wild Hearts who sends out our casting kits so that they can earn revenue to put towards supporting animals with mobility challenges. Our clients will then ship the cast back to our studio where we will scan it and upload to our computer for it to be digitally modified by our custom algorithm. After it is modified, we 3D-print our devices with a highly flexible yet durable material in the colour chosen by the client, and then add all of our human-grade components.”
Of course, designing for pets poses its own unique set of challenges, the team at 3D Pets remains steadfast in their mission to help as many animals as possible, sharing with us unanimously that this is some of the most impactful work they’ve been able to do. Lydia, the company’s Head of Outreach and Development (and the owner of 3D Pets’ mascot dog, Trip) notes that it’s so rewarding being able to “see how relieved pets (including my own pup) feel once they learn to trust and lean on their device as it’s intended. It’s incredible to learn about where pets have come from and where they are now because of their device, all while seeing that change happen in front of our own eyes.”