There are so many areas influenced by 3D printing from education, industry, the environment, and medicine, and these application of the technology generate many moving and inspirational stories that we just can’t seem to get enough of.  Well, occasionally a story comes along that really stands out for its good vibes all around: 3D printing helping out thoughtful every day people. On June 5, 2015, a recent high school graduate, Denise Altheides, took a seat on a 16stool in Bunker Hill, Indiana to be photographed by two local middle school math teachers. “So? People get photographed all of the time”, you might think.  But this was extra special and one of the sweetest 3D printing stories I have heard about in a while.  Denise’s mother, Faith, has been deaf all of her life, and has recently gone blind as well.  Also, Faith’s husband died last year and Denise is going off to college soon.  You may now see where I am going with this: the photos that teachers, Ron Shaffer and Cory Howard, took of Denise will be turned into a 3D printed bust for Faith to keep with her on her new journey of living alone.

Faith may be planning to live alone, but she has some amazing people helping her out, it appears.  The idea of the 3D printed bust came from Faith’s social worker, Patricia Ingraham, who contacted Howard and Shaffer about the possibility of a 3D printed model of Denise. They loved the story, and especially the idea of helping a family that has been through so much together. The result — seeing Faith’s face when she opens the gift and understands what it is — is priceless!

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Shaffer and Howard first took photos of Denise and made a mock up by stitching the photos together to make a 3D image. Next they tested it to see how it would build in 3D, and then they 3D printed it on a Makerbot Replicator. Denise Altheides explained how this 3D printed bust would impact her mom: “She [her mom] is probably going to be a bit confused at first and will probably cry.” This mother and daughter seem to have a very positive and supportive relationship; Denise uses sign language in her mom’s hand to communicate with her — similar to the way in which Hellen Keller communicated.13

And from viewing the video of Faith receiving the 3D printed bust of her lovely daughter Denise, you can see Denise was right. Those may have been tears of joy, too, as Faith was greatly surprised by the generosity of her social worker who thought of the idea, the two teachers who agreed to do it, and her daughter who can rest easier knowing her mother has a high-tech memento to help her adjust to her new life.

Another great part of the story is that Howard and Shaffer plan to share the project this coming fall with their students, sparking more innovative ways to combine 3D printing and thoughtful human compassion.  Let’s hear your thoughts on this incredibly touching story in the 3D Printed Bust forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Below are additional videos showing the process used to create this bust.

 

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