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Meet 3D Pets, the company that creates innovative prostheses for animals

The day Trip walked out of the office wearing his device, an overwhelming joy swept through the room, and we all cried.

  • 6 months ago
  • November 16, 2023
6 min read
3D Pets in New Jersey works hard to ensure animals with limited mobility have a full life. With its innovative 3D printing system, the company offers prostheses for dogs and many other animals. 3D Pets in New Jersey works hard to ensure animals with limited mobility have a full life. With its innovative 3D printing system, the company offers prostheses for dogs and many other animals. | Photo courtesy of Alex Thol
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Alex Thol is the co-founder of 3DPets along with Adam Hecht. He has a degree in Industrial Design with a specialization in healthcare and business. He started in this field designing and printing small pre-surgical models for surgeons to use at Jefferson Medical Centers but soon transitioned into pet prostheses. 3D Pets has become a very successful endeavor, giving pets a new lease on life.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
3D printing has emerged as an innovative and promising technology in a number of fields, one of which is the plastics industry. Beyond its ability to create customised and complex objects, 3D printing has also proven to be a sustainable tool that offers multiple benefits for the environment and society at large. 3D Pets set out with the mission of bringing affordable and easily accessible animal mobility devices into the 21st century.

NEW JERSEY, United States — My business partner Adam Hecht and I started a 3D prostheses company for animals called 3D Pets. Our technology allows us to improve the lives of animals who suffered through amputations or deformities. One day we heard about Trip, a dog whose deformity led to many complications in his life. His owners were considering putting him down. We decided to build him a device that would allow him to move freely.

We took Trip’s measurements and worked tirelessly to design and create the perfect pet prosthesis. The day Trip walked out of the office wearing his device, an overwhelming joy swept through the room, and we all cried. Trip has become the mascot for 3D Pets, and we get regular updates on him. While we mainly design prosthetics for canine puppies, we have made mobility devices for ducks, pigs, goats, and even turtles. Seeing an animal splash around in the water, play ball, or run with their best friends feels like a dream come true.

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Designing and implementing our first pet prosthesis

The 3D Pets endeavor began over a shared love for innovation and helping others. My partner and I were talking about ways to merge art with technology in a way that benefits the world. When we got introduced to a person trying to figure out how to make prostheses for animals, we decided to give it a try.

The first time we created a pet prosthesis, placing it on the animal became a challenge. We had no idea how to do it or if it would even work. It felt like brand new territory, and nervousness overcame us. As I held the piece in my hands, the anticipation made me nearly stop breathing. Through trial and error, we began adjusting the prosthesis on the dog.

When it finally clicked in place, a wave of euphoria swept through me. Knowing I helped change an animal’s life for the better proved to be an incredible experience. Once we made sure the device worked well, we watched as the dog started running, full of life again.

My partner and I looked at each other and smiled as the dog ran circles around us. That day motivated us to keep going, eager to expand our efforts. We finally felt comfortable with our creation and couldn’t wait to help more animals. As a dog lover, working with these pets and their families feels like a dream. Each pet’s transformation has an immediate effect on me.

The big companies said we couldn’t do it: “Our garage became our laboratory”

When I think of our journey, going from early sketches to the first tangible prototype, I feel so proud of the team at 3D Pets. Each piece resembles a new puzzle to solve and a unique story to tell. Although we now possess more experience, each case comes with its own set of challenges. It took a lot of work and time to get our devices to where they are today.

3D Pets uses the power of iPhone’s LiDAR scanner and front-facing TrueDeph camera. Along with some other apps, it very accurately captures the information needed to adapt the prostheses to the size and shape of each animal. 

A dog wearing one of 3DPets’ prostheses. | Photo courtesy of Alex Thol

When we first got started, we communicated with several 3D printing companies. We called them up, one at a time, and shared our vision. They all told us it was impossible to 3D print something like a prosthesis with the flexibility and size we wanted. Rather than admit defeat, we took it as a challenge.

In the United States, the field of prosthetics is highly regulated and everything is controlled by insurance. When they heard our business idea, many companies tried to discourage us. It felt frustrating, but I refused to surrender. Despite all the doors that closed, we found another way to meet our goal. We went back to researching the market and opted to invent our own process.

We made the molds for the dogs, bought the 3D printers, and started doing the work. Once everything fell into place and the machines began printing, we felt like we could reach out and touch our dream. Our garage became our laboratory. There we were, surrounded by materials and machines, working long hours and proving those big companies wrong. 

Apple takes notice of 3D Pets and the Invincibles campaign brings attention to pet prostheses

Over the course of about five months, we used our printers to build a harness with the flexibility we were looking for. I can’t tell you exactly how I felt at that moment except to say everything fell into place and I was at peace.

The first time we held a finished product in our hands, we jumped up and down. What we created felt revolutionary in the field of prosthetics. Standing there in that moment, I experienced a sense of ecstasy. In time, we slowly built an amazing team, rented an office, and moved out of the garage.

3D Pets grew very fast and we constantly brainstorm new ideas to stay fresh. Watching pets take their first steps using our devices fills the air with excitement. It wasn’t long before someone at Apple saw a video of our work and approached us by email.

Seeing the name “Apple” in our inbox seemed surreal. It felt hard to believe they not only heard of us but wanted to work together. We responded immediately and we owe part our company’s growth today to Apple. Together, we created a marketing campaign called Invincibles, inspired by our story and our meeting with Trip. 

Some of the families who have worked with 3D Pets | Photo courtesy of 3D Pets team

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