3D printed alligator tail brings new life to Mr Stubbs

In 2013, Mr Stubbs was injured whilst being trafficked by illegal animal smugglers. As a result, he lost his tail. 

Now a remarkable 3D printed tail has been created, through a mix of technology, care and focus. Thanks to innovative new scanning techniques, and the dedication of a small, committed team of helpers, it was possible to create a design which exactly fit Mr Stubbs’ body metrics and movements.

3D printed tail

Upon being rescued in 2013, Mr Stubbs was brought to the Phoenix Herpetological Society for treatment, but his outlook seemed bleak. Several experiments were carried out with casts taken from other alligators, but the results were cumbersome and unsatisfactory. They just couldn’t seem to construct something which worked in conjunction with his natural body movements.

A report from National Geographic outlines the measures taken by the researchers as they prepared a new 3D printed tail for Mr Stubbs. The new measures and discoveries are all useful additions to the field of prosthetic appendages.

‘Justin Georgi, an associate professor of anatomy at Midwestern University in Gelandale, Arizona, had a master’s student in search of project, and together they decided to try to replace the tail of Mr. Stubbs—who had become something of a local legend. They collaborated with a local company called STAX3D to use an Artec 3D scanner to create a specialized appendage for the gator.’

“They got the resolution where features even below the millimeter scale were visible and usable,” says Georgi, who specializes in the locomotion of large bodied reptiles, and helped construct the previous tails that Mr. Stubbs has since outgrown. “Watching it happen there in real-time was incredible.”

This kind of precision allowed them to make the gator a well-fitting tail specialized to its size and body composition.’

You can watch a short video about Mr Stubbs’ procedure below: