Hair loss, and the attempts to hide it, seem to be an endless source of comedy in movies and sitcoms. The obvious combover, the obvious toupee, the toupee that falls off, the allergic reactions to hair plugs: somehow, baldness has become a comedy gold mine. In real life, it can be a major self-esteem issue. It’s hereditary, so many men are well prepared for the eventual loss of their hair, but there are other issues that can lead to unexpected hair loss, which can be traumatic – particularly for women, but also for men who suddenly go from having a full head of hair to hardly any at all. Causes of non-hereditary hair loss include diseases like lupus and hyperthyroidism, as well as certain medications and even pregnancy.
It turns out that 3D printing can help. Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories is an Italian company that developed what is known as the CNC hair system, which is something like a non-invasive hair transplant. It’s kind of like a wig, but unlike most wigs, it’s molded precisely to your scalp, and is carefully custom-designed to replicate your natural hair in color, texture, and even the way it naturally falls. Also, it stays in place.
The process starts by taking a mold of the client’s scalp and carefully mapping the areas of hair loss. The mold is used to create a 3D model, which is then printed in a patented micro-thin, breathable bio-polymer material, creating a membrane or “second scalp” perfectly customized to the client’s head. The membrane is antibacterial and antifungal, and even adapts to changes in the wearer’s body temperature. A hair sample is also taken from the client and used to find a perfect match – color, curl, texture – from CRL’s large supply of donated virgin (never dyed or otherwise processed) hair. Once a match is found, a technician carefully sews the hair, piece by piece, into the membrane, replicating the hair’s natural direction of growth. The membrane is then attached to the scalp of the client using a special medical adhesive.
Once the “second scalp” is in place, it functions as if it’s a natural part of you. You can shower, swim, play sports, style your hair, and it stays as firmly in place as your natural scalp does. You can even cut and dye it, although I’d be a bit wary about doing that since you’re pretty much stuck with the outcome, pleasant or unpleasant. The studio just requests that you come in once a month for professional cleaning and maintenance. If it’s well-maintained, a CNC hair treatment can last for years.
The original Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories is located in Italy, but their CNC system is becoming more widely available. Currently, it’s available in certain hair salons and treatment clinics in 12 countries, and in 12 states within the US. It’s a bit on the pricey side, upwards of a thousand dollars depending on the severity of your hair loss – mostly because the scalp models taken at the clinic actually have to be shipped to CRL in Italy to be 3D printed in the special biomaterial. If you’ve lost your hair due to disease, burns, or some other traumatic event, however, the cost may be worth it.
“A custom prosthetic CNC is actually a thin skin material that hair is injected into,” said Leslie Robinson, who owns Mane Image Hair Restoration Center in Merrillville, Indiana, describing the process one of her clients recently went through to get her hair piece. “What we do is we design the CNC to fit into the thin area, which is usually on the top of the head. These two go to Bologna, Italy, where a 3-D imaging machine makes a custom CNC prosthetic. When the CNC comes back to Mane Image, we custom style it to … a client’s specifications.”
Below is a look at Robinson’s use of CNC in her Indiana salon. Is this something that interests you? Discuss in the 3D Printed Scalp forum over at 3DPB.com.
Below, you can see the process in more detail in a video produced by Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories: