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Inspiring Conversations with Nikita Krishnan of Creature Comfort and Care

Hi Nikita, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
It really all started with a family trip to India. I was there during my middle school years to visit my grandmother in the Indian countryside. But as I began spending more time in the country, I began to see a startling trend: stray dogs everywhere. As someone who grew up in the United States, it was a difficult concept for me to understand. I could not comprehend, simply, how there could be a plethora of stray dogs on the streets in need of care. When I returned back to the USA, I began looking deeper into the animal industry. Through my research, I began to realize just how expensive animal care could get, especially prosthetics for animals, which ranged upwards of thousands of dollars. It was then that I came across an article about 3D printing.

Though the industry was very new at the time, there were a lot of interesting efforts underway with this advanced technology. I began to wonder if I could merge the two ideas, animals and 3D printing, together to make a difference. That was really the inception of the non-profit. The only problem? I didn’t know a thing about 3D printing. It took tons of hours spent with computer-aided design software, YouTube tutorials, and mentorship to finally grasp the basics of the 3D printing software. But that would only be one of many problems; I began to struggle finding clients who wanted to partner with me and my organization. I knew as a young woman entering a heavily male-dominated space, me and my ideas would not be taken seriously.

For seven months, I was met with silence and rejection. Finally, it was one client in south San Diego that took a chance on me. I went on to develop a series of 3D printed splints for injured greyhound dogs. I patented my design and sent it everywhere across America. From then on, I received lots of requests for other animals and began pivoting to different projects. I learned so much throughout the process. Most importantly, though, I learned about the importance and value of failure.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I was met with tons of challenges. I did not know how to do anything with 3D printing. The learning curve was very steep for me. On top of that, I was a sophomore in high school attempting to juggle my rigorous schoolwork. It really took hours of deep learning with computer-aided design software (what’s used for 3D printing), mentorship, and YouTube forums to teach me the ways. It took me about 1-2 months to fully grasp the concept. But once I did, I wasn’t able to find any clients. My young age, gender, and the relatively new facets of the industry precluded me from finding success for a very long series of months.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Creature Comfort and Care?
We are Creature Comfort and Care, a certified 501 c(3) non-profit organization that provides prosthetic and assistive devices to animals using 3D printed technology. We work with a variety of animals from dogs to birds to horses. We are really the first of our kind, and we are proud to say we are women-led.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
I’ve learned a lot more about the general 3D printing industry because of Covid-19. I’ve been working on trying to 3D print some mask fixtures and face shields that could be used to donate to hospitals or people in need. There is also so much to be done with the software, given that everything is online. It was a great time for me to sharpen some skills that I had lost.

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