Tortoise that lost shell to fire gets super-strong 3D-printed shell

27 Jul 2015

A Brazilian tortoise called Fred has been given a major technological upgrade with the help of a 3D-printed shell created for him following his natural shell being damaged in a forest fire.

Based in Santos, São Paulo, Brazil, the receiver of the 3D-printed shell was a red-footed tortoise — a breed found in many places in South America — but Fred was one caught up in a relatively large fire that nearly saw him lose his life.

However, according to, Fred was saved thanks to the help of a group of veterinarians who were able to create a 3D-printed shell catering to his own specifications.

Using common desktop 3D printer material, the vets were able to gradually create the pure-white shell, which the group claim is the first time ever that a creature’s entire shell has been 3D-printed.


3D-printed shell Fred

Image of Fred via


3D-printed shell Fred after

Image of Fred after surgery via

It was touch-and-go for some time, however, as placing the shell on Fred required a surgical operation that worryingly saw Fred come down with a case of pneumonia, which saw him out of action for over a month, but he has now fully recovered.

Before Fred can be released back into the wild, his shell will need to be tinkered with to bring its colouration back to what it looked like before the forest fire, but the vets are hesitant in case it impairs Fred’s health.

However, they are believed to be in contact with a number of local artists to try and paint Fred’s shell as close as possible to the old one, giving him a better shot at camouflaging himself in the continent’s jungles.

Unhappy tortoise (not Fred) image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic