This 3D-printed ‘safety hoop’ is helping a blind dog maneuver obstacles

Perhaps the cutest 3D-printed innovation we've ever seen.

Gizmodo / Chad Lalande

Designer Chad Lalande’s 18-year-old Pomeranian, Sienna, has such poor eyesight that she’s become prone to bumping into doorframes and walls. So Lalande did what any amateur designer with a 3D printer would do: he crafted a custom “safety hoop” to help.

Lalande’s design is fairly simple: it’s like a helmet with the middle scooped out. Sienna’s head fits into the center hoop, while a larger hoop — held in place by an arm that goes over the top — surrounds the dog’s head to create a bumper of sorts. The whole device has three loops in the back to attach to the dog’s harness.

The reason for Lalande’s innovation is also simple. “I just saw a need and went about solving that need,” he told Gizmodo in an email.

Simplicity in design makes the device all the more useful. Rather than being a one-time solution created just for Sienna, the safety hoop can be reproduced by just about anyone with a 3D printer. In a market where similar devices would be much more expensive, Lalande’s innovation makes safety legitimately accessible.

Affordable innovation — 3D printing, when used ineffectively, has high potential for coming off as a gimmick. Still others struggle with the uncanniness associated with turning out a conventional product through a printer, as with this 3D-printed steak. But some, like Lalande, find 3D printers genuinely groundbreaking in their design endeavors.

The six versions of Lalande's safety hoop design. Chad Lalande

Most exciting about the rise of 3D printers is the relatively low startup fees associated with experimentation. Lalande received a 3D printer as a gift over the holidays, saw the device as a means by which to help his dog, and got to work. Six iterations and some helpful guidance via a Facebook design group later, Lalande landed on a design that worked for Sienna.

Similar safety hoops on the market are pricey and struggle with customizability. By utilizing a 3D printer for his safety hoop designs, Lalande bypasses these obstacles.

3D printing the future — Lalande’s feat of dog safety is part of a much larger trend: 3D printers are genuinely interesting sources of innovation now. The basic technology has been around since the 1970s, but in the last decade it’s really taken off, thanks better printer technology and lower startup costs for designers.

Just about anything can be 3D printed now. This year, an entire 3D-printed home went on the market for $300,000 — a steal for the area in which it’s located. Companies like Teenage Engineering are using 3D printer models for incredible custom accessories. And we’re using 3D printers for more modeling than ever before, enabling us to imagine futures unbound by traditional building technologies.

3D printers, while not exactly inexpensive, do make innovation much more accessible. Lalande’s designs can be accessed on Thingiverse, if you’re interested in playing around with them for your own dog.