Using 3D modelling and printing, an innovative process has been created at Indiana University to manufacture incredible remarkably lifelike facial prosthetics more rapidly as compared to conventional methods. Shirley Anderson, diagnosed with cancer on his tongue in 1998 was chosen the showcase patient for this process.
Anderson’s Adam’s apple and jaw was damaged as a result of radiation treatments and numerous attempts at reconstructive surgery failed. For many years that followed, Anderson had to wear a surgical mask in public in order to hide his badly scarred face.
However, Anderson started working with a maxillofacial prosthodontics resident at the IU school of dentistry, Dr. Travis Bellicchi in 2012. The prosthesis of Anderson would be the biggest ever produced at the school and Bellichi learned very rapidly that traditional techniques created a prosthetic that was very heavyweight and uncomfortable.
Hence, Bellichi initiated working with the students of Media Arts and Sciences program at Indiana University’s to discover a new answer. Media Arts and Sciences program is such a program of university that is normally dedicated to the entertainment industry. First of all, digitally scanning the Anderson’s face was a great development itself over the plaster-casting technique previously applied. Henceforth, in order to model a prosthetic jaw, the digital sculpting software ‘Zbrush’ was utilized. Zbrush turned out to be very proficient in producing the narrow feathered edges of the prosthetic which assisted it in looking very lifelike by blushing just like patient’s own skin.
Based on the sculpt, molds were then printed via a Formlabs desktop 3D printer. As you can see in the picture above that the resulting prosthesis is incredibly lifelike that you might consider eerie. When Anderson was questioned about his feelings and reaction, he portrayed it as “true amazement” using the whiteboard through which he communicates.
From hands to legs, 3D printing has turned into a blessing to prosthetics, all of which needs different degrees of customization that are difficult or expensive to achieve by other means. Especially, facial prosthetics requires a lot of work and diligent hand-sculpting for each patient.
This process takes much less time as compared to conventional methods and manufactures prostheses in almost 6 weeks. As per the researchers, six more patients have benefited from this technique called the ‘Shirley Technique’.