Aug. 25, 2014

A Wellington student's 3D printed facial prosthesis design is in the running for an $80,000 international design award.

The 24-year-old's design has been named one of the three finalists in the New Zealand section of annual James Dyson Award global product design innovation contest, an international design award that recognises the next generation of design engineers who have developed inventions that are innovative to everyday problems.

Victoria University school of design master's student Zach Challies has created a 3D printed base to attach facial prosthetics more securely and comfortably, and a two part, non traditional prosthetic to enable the wearer to play sports.

Challies realised that when part of the face is missing due to a birth difference, traumatic injury, or surgical treatment of disease, patients experience loss of function and quality of life. The traditional prosthesis fulfills its function of aesthetically replacing the nose but patients are constatnly fearful of its being dislodged. And this fear effects patient's lifestyle. On top of this, it is costly to have a new prosthesis ($1000+), not to mention the ongoing lengthy and expensive consultation to fit each new prosthesis.

Challies' first solution was a dynamic prosthetic scaffold fitted under the nose-shaped facade and can provide stability and enhanced retention so it would be more difficult to knock the prosthesis off. This would connect to three implants in the participants skull via magnets. This scaffold can be made on a 3D printer as a cost of $50.

His second solution was to develop a two part, non traditional prosthetic for sports or physical activities. This prosthesis could have the same retention mechanism, if the outer prosthetic facade was knocked loose a flat guard would allow airflow and protect the wearers sensitive area. It would cost less than $100 and take about two hours to make on a 3D printer.

To create such a custom fitted prosthesis, his team first collected his participant's facial morphology and implant configuration using the Artec Spider 3D scanner. Then they used the scan data to model prototypes that conform to the morphology of their participant. Using Rhino 5 and parametric plug-in Grasshopper, they can constantly tweak the 3D models in simple ways to accommodate subtle facial movements.

Their early prototypes were printed using simple FDM 3D-printers to test the fit and position accuracy to ensure that they matched the physical form of their participants face. Then they used Victoria University's Objet Connex 350 multi-property 3D printer to print mixed-density prototypes that have a similar material compliance as the muscle and tissue of the human body. This allows their prosthetic scaffold to be dynamic and forgiving in order to help retain a prosthesis if it is knocked.

Both parts are easy to re-print and the wearer could have a few spare. The 3D files are based on a facial scan and three magnet positions so they can be easily adapted to other patients. It can decrease the anxiety of wearers in closed spaces like public transport or busy streets. It is also small enough to fit under a traditional prosthesis meaning that it could be included into the workflow of prosthetic technicians with some minor modifications.

Challies said his main motivation was raising awareness. "It's just nice to raise the awareness of this condition, this day-to-day struggle of someone who has to wear a prosthesis."

Challies, together with two other national finalists, will compete for the international award which comes with a prize of $60,000 to commercialise the idea and $20,000 for the designer's university. The New Zealand winner will be announced on Wednesday.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive