We have all probably read at least one of those amazing stories about doctors pre-planning dangerous and complicated surgeries using 3D printed models generated from sonogram, CT scans or MRI data. But these 3D models would not be possible without some rather important advances in software that make it possible to convert complicated and data heavy medical scans into 3D printable models. The process has now been streamlined so much that it can take only a matter of minutes to generate 3D models from medical scan data. While these software advancements are saving lives and advancing medical science in ways that no one could have predicted, they are also being used in some rather unexpected, but heartwarming ways.
A private 3D and 4D baby scanning clinic based in Lancashire, UK has begun offering 3D printed keepsakes of their unborn babies based on their prenatal ultrasounds. Baby:Boo was started by Katie Kermode after she suffered two miscarriages. She felt that nervous expectant mothers could use a more comprehensive scanning service than can be offered by the NHS (National Health Services, the UK’s state run health care provider). Kermode acknowledges that when the NHS scans expectant mothers, they are doing so purely for medical reasons in order to make sure that the baby is healthy and there are no complications, unfortunately they are not able to spend excessive time with mothers while they coo over their unborn child.
Kermode thought that there could be a different type of scanning service for new mothers, one that would allow them to get a close-up look at their baby, so Baby:Boo was born. Baby:Boo offers large monitors in full color for mothers to view the scan in real time while using state of the art 2D, 3D and 4D scanning technology. She also wanted to offer them a relaxing environment that allowed them time to feel secure that everything was okay with their baby, and Kermode even goes so far as to suggest that they are bonding sessions. Since the company opened, Baby:Boo has offered several different types of keepsakes of their scan, including pictures and keychains, and now they have started to offer 3D printable models of unborn children.
“After I lost two pregnancies I underwent fertility treatment and finally fell pregnant with Alfie. I had scans throughout, I think being pregnant is a scary time, especially if you have struggled to get pregnant. It’s nice to sit back and enjoy your pregnancy and take some of the stress off. I found it to be quite addictive,” Kermode recently explained to the Daily Mail.
Here is a video about the new 3D printing service:
Parents can have a 3D print of their unborn baby made as early as 16 weeks, however the fetus will not be fully formed at that point, but can still be a pretty interesting keepsake. Kermode generally suggests that 3D prints be made from scans at about 28 weeks when the baby has fully formed facial features and even shows signs of activity like thumb sucking. Each 3D printed scan will set parents back about £150 ($230 us) and is available mounted in a frame that can be hung on the wall, or simply loose in a box so it can be held and touched.
“People do think it’s a little odd but it’s similar to creating casts of babies’ feet or hands. It’s actually a really lovely keepsake to cherish. The 3D figurines are a really unique way to share the excitement of your new baby with family and friends – there will be no need to look at scan pictures any more, they can almost see the real thing,” Kermode continued.
In the UK most of the population’s medical care needs are handled by the NHS, so private medical facilities are generally reserved for the wealthy. But the country is seeing more small, specialized medical care clinics like Baby:Boo pop up recently because they offer types of services and specialized patient care that the NHS is simply incapable of providing. And now that 3D scanning and 3D printing services are becoming more affordable and commonplace I’d expect companies offering this type of prenatal care to start popping up everywhere.
Let us know what you think of using advanced medical scanning and 3D printing technology in unexpected ways, or what you think of 3D printing your unborn fetus over on our 3D Printed Babies forum at 3DPB.com.