3D-Printed Facial Prosthetics an Inexpensive Option after Undergoing Eye Surgery
A professor of ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Florida, in conjunction with the Composite Materials Lab at University of Miami, has come up with a new method to create 3D-printed facial prosthetics that can be made within minutes at the fraction of the cost of a traditional prosthesis. Its nanoclay material prevents it from breaking down when exposed to light and moisture and prevents dirt from taking root in the prosthetic.
Facial prosthetics can cost upwards of $10,000 to $15,000 and take weeks to produce. They’re made by an ocularist who takes a mold of the face and casts it using rubber. Final touches, such as skin color, and fine details, such as individual eyelashes, are performed. They’re usually not covered by health insurance and patients often have to pay out-of-pocket.
People with eye cancer may undergo a lifesaving procedure called exenteration that removes the contents of the eye socket along with surrounding tissue, leaving a hollow socket. Conventional facial prosthetics are expensive, take a long time to make, and can discolor and fray at the edges over time.
A topographical imaging system scans both the unaffected and affected sides of a patient’s face. The software creates a mirror image with the undamaged portion, which is combined with the scan of the affected side to create a 3D rendition of the face. A 3D printer takes the topography information and translates it into a mask formed out of rubber infused with nanoparticles that enable it to match a variety of skin tones, as well as strengthen the rubber material to weather damaging effects of light and moisture.
Since the topography imaging is performed with a mobile scanner, the scientists plan to create 3D-printed facial prosthetics on location where the patient resides, have the data downloaded in Miami, print out the prosthesis, and have it shipped to the patient the next day.