Fripp Design, a consultancy in Sheffield, England, is modernizing the process by taking advantage of 3-D printer and scanner technology. In their system, 3-D data is captured painlessly using photogrammetry, a technique that takes images captured from an array of cameras and stitches the results into an editable CAD model. These files are then cross-referenced with MRI data and CT scans to ensure a perfect fit.
Digital sculptors use that data and a library of 3-D modeled body parts to repair the damaged areas. Pores, birthmarks, and wrinkles are added to the virtual model to make it feel organic and age appropriate. Skin color is captured in the photographs and overlaid on the simulation to create a perfect match with the surviving tissue.
In all cases, the artists strive to create authentic-looking replicas. “In the case of a missing ear, we would scan the other ear and mirror, or we can image a family member or friend and use their geometry,” says project lead Tom Fripp. Leveraging digital workflows, the sculpt can be finalized in a few hours and 3-D printed within a few days.
Capturing data was a challenge, but 3-D printing a flesh-like substance on machines better suited to brittle plaster statues proved even more difficult. “Post-processing is an integral part of any 3-D printer’s production process, and it is this area that we focused on with our prosthetics project,” says Fripp. His team used a ZCorp 3-D printer that can produce full-color parts, but replaced the stock build material with a custom formulated starch substrate. The resulting parts feature realistic skin color and are infiltrated with a medical grade silicone to add flexibility and robustness. “The models are only as fragile as you design them to be,” he says.
Attaching the finished prostheses to the patient is as easy as plugging in a Macbook. During the facial reconstruction process, steel rods are typically implanted in the patient’s skull and magnets hidden in the 3-D printed part allow it to snap on effortlessly….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!