University of Queensland Library’s Digital Scholars Hub and the School of Veterinary Science collaborated to create 3D printed models of dog skulls. The prints were used to teach children how popular short-nosed dogs suffer.
Breeds such as French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and pugs are all the rage due to their flat faces, but these pups often have conditions such as brachycephalia which makes it hard for them to pant, breathe, or exercise.
“This trait has been selected by humans to make dogs look cute and more flat-faced like us, but it can result in significant suffering or invasive surgical treatments to help the dogs breathe. By having 3D models, we’re able to show just how problematic this condition is and to easily explain tricky concepts like this to school kids,” explains UQ veterinarian and Associate Professor Rachel Allavena.
She adds that the models also help explain why people should adopt and not shop for a dog. The 3D printed models are on display at the World Science Festival.
Creating 3D Models of Mutts
Nick Wiggins, from University of Queensland Digital Scholars Hub, created the models and explains that he is also working on many other similar projects in disciplines such as history, zoology, archaeology, and palaeontology.
To create the 3D pooch prints, Wiggins used a CT scan of a dog. He turned this imaging data into a model using open-source imaging software. Next, he 3D printed the model using a low-end 3D printer and biodegradable plastic.
He adds that using this process, it’s easy to quickly and cheaply build something to connect science “to a whole new audience”.
Allavena explains that 3D printing is not just being used for education, but also for treating animals. She adds: “I know of a dog that had most of its skull removed due to a cancer, then had a custom-made 3-D printed titanium plate implanted. And surgeons are creating unique 3-D bone models for animals requiring surgery, in order to plan and practice a procedure before it’s conducted.”