Cincinnati Zoo Gorilla Gladys Gets Gorilla-Grade Cast Thanks to GE Additive

Posted April 23, 2024

Vet team outfits Gladys with world’s first 3D-printed titanium cast

 The temporary cast that was placed on 11-year-old gorilla Gladys last week after she had surgery to repair her broken arm has been replaced by a model more likely to stand up to gorilla power.  Veterinarians and gorilla keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden outfitted Gladys with the world’s first 3D-printed titanium cast, made by GE Additive, on Friday.

“She was pretty hard on the other cast,” said Dr. Mike Wenninger, Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal health.  “We’re hoping that this one will be more gorilla proof.”

It should be.  It’s made of the same material, titanium, as the screws and plates that are now part of her arm for life!

“One benefit of 3D printing is fast turnaround times.  Following a call on Friday afternoon, our team met up over the weekend to create initial design ideas. The following Monday we scanned the original cast to create a 3D model and were ready to start printing the same day. The titanium cast took around 65 hours to print, and we were able to deliver it to the Zoo team in under a week,” said Shannon Morman, advanced lead engineer at GE Additive, who was on-site to help with any necessary adjustments.

The new cast is much heavier, about 8 pounds, than the temporary cast but Zoo vets say that shouldn’t be a problem for Gladys. Gorillas have incredibly strong arms, so she should be fine with this weight.

“That doesn’t mean that she likes it!,” said Victoria McGee, Cincinnati Zoo’s zoological manager of primates.  “But she is tolerating it better than she did the first one.  She’s been locomoting comfortably, adapting her movements to the cast carefully and safely! Before the titanium cast, we were very limited on the spaces Gladys could safely be in. With this addition, Gladys can “graduate” to additional behind-the-scenes spaces that will allow her to have more choice and exploration throughout the day.”

She will wear this cast for about four weeks and will remain behind the scenes while she heals. She will be in proximity to her troop mates but will not share space with them until after the cast comes off.  Her care team is monitoring her closely and providing around-the-clock attention.

Visitors can see the other gorillas during regular zoo hours – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  Members get Early Entry and are welcome to enter the Zoo at 9 a.m. Memberships are on sale now, so join the Zoo at a discounted price and enjoy all the perks.