Dudley the duck is getting a 3D printed foot

Every now and then, a SolidWorks user sends us an email that really catches our attention. We got one of these last week from Terence Loring, owner of 3 Pillar Designs in Vancouver. Terence wrote to tell us about a duckling named Dudley who only has one foot as the result of an unfortunate encounter with a chicken. Dudley can still swim, but has trouble getting around on land.


Terence learned about Dudley through a friend, and after visiting the duckling, decided he would attempt to design a prosthetic foot and have it 3D printed. He even dubbed this “Project Robo-Duck” in homage to Robocop, one of his favorite movies. I asked Terence if he could tell us a bit about how he decided to approach the process of using SolidWorks to design a prosthetic for a wild animal, and how he’s handled the challenge associated. Here’s what Terence had to say:

“What I consider important in the first steps of any design process is to have a complete understanding of the client and his/her problems. At the end of the day, we are trying to come up with a creative solution to a problem they need assistance with. In this case, the client was a duck, so it was difficult to interview him to understand his individual needs, as well as get feedback during the design, so interviewing the care-taker was the next best option.

After interviewing the care-taker (as well as taking measurements of Dudley), I was able to learn that Dudley and his brother were attacked by an evil chicken that killed his brother and left him with only one leg. Also, the amputation is causing the rest of his body to be deformed to adapt to being so unbalanced, causing further health issues. It was important then, to have a leg that simulated the most normal gate possible for Dudley. To do this, I thought it was important to incorporate movable ankle / knee joints as well as a flexible foot. Dudley also found it much easier to be swimming in water, so we would need a prosthetic that can work in both land and aquatic environments.”

20130918_155628 numbersTerence then created a full set of design requirements and solution, as follows:

Requirement: Fully support Dudley’s weight

Solution: Main structural components (upper-leg, lower-leg, connecting pin for joints) will be composed out of a stronger ABS-type plastic final leg will be a medical grade plastic).

Requirement: Multi-jointed to allow for a smoother gate

The ankle joint allows for approximately 20 degrees of rotation while the knee joint allows has a curved flexible knee piece connecting the upper leg and lower leg which isolates the rotation of the knee while still acting like a shock-damper.

Requirement: Lightweight to reduce Dudley’s energy consumption.

We are testing several lightweight plastics out to see if it is both light and strong enough for our application.

Requirement: Realistic foot to allow for more effective swimming

The foot was mirrored off Dudley’s good foot to ensure similar sizing. Also, the bottom of the heel and toe of the foot were curved to allow for easier rotation / translation of the foot. The foot will be made out of a very soft and flexible rubber-mimic plastic to allow easier placement / liftoff of the foot.

As of today, Terence and the team at Proto3000 (who graciously offered to print the prosthetic foot free of charge) are in phase 1 of the print where they will test the design, sizing and functionality of the piece before fitting it to Dudley’s leg. If this works, Terence will look into using ISO certified PC material, which will allow for testing on Dudley without risk of harming him.

Terence is expecting to receive the initial prototype any day now, and has promised to send updates as he receives them. We’re looking forward to seeing how this project progresses, and we’ll post updates as we get them from Terence. We’d like to thank Terence for sharing his story, and share our admiration for his willingness to help out an injured duckling. Great job!

Terence was even nice enough to send us the SolidWorks files for his initial design. You can download them here: RoboDuck

Prosthetic Duck LegExploded 1Exploded 2



Matthew West

SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.