Aug 25, 2016 | By Tess

For every expecting parent, there is nothing quite as exciting and even as life-changing as seeing your future baby growing inside the mother’s womb for the first time through ultrasound imaging. Seeing the first fragments of your child’s head, feet, body, and arms truly puts the miracle of life into a whole new perspective. But what if you can’t see? How impactful is the ultrasound imaging then? Fortunately, a startup from Szczecin, Poland has dedicated itself to this question and is offering a service which 3D prints bas-reliefs of ultrasound images for blind expecting parents so that they can see their unborn baby in an entirely tactile way.

The startup, called IN UTERO 3D, essentially uses 3D imaging and 3D printing technologies to recreate physical tactile models based on ultrasound images. If the concept sounds simple to you, the process is also remarkable straight forward. As the startup explains, all they need to begin the process is an ultrasound image file saved in either Cartesian Volume (.vol) format or DICOM (.dcm) format. For the best results, they recommend using an image file taken between the 18th and 30th weeks of pregnancy.

With the file they can then convert the image into a 3D printable model using their own specially designed software. According to the startup, they do not “idealize” the baby’s face during this process and keep it true to the original image by simply exporting it into another data storage device. As IN UTERO 3D states: “The bas-relief is a true three dimensional representation of baby and environment in the mother’s womb. We maintain all proportions, spatial relations and actual dimensions of the unborn child.”

Once the digital file is ready, a process which can take up to a few hours, they then 3D print the bas-relief of the baby’s face using an ecru non-toxic bioplastic material. The printing process, for its part, can take anywhere between 4 and 7 hours to complete. The end results? A small, bas-relief plaque with your unborn child’s face that you can hold in your hand.

As mentioned, while the startup does take orders from anyone, they have also started an initiative through which they are making the 3D printed tactile plaques accessible to blind mothers. The initiative, called “Waiting without Barriers”, is hoping to give blind expecting mother’s the same opportunity to tactily visualize their unborn baby.

Within Poland, visually impaired pregnant women can send their ultrasound files into the startup, who will then create a 3D printed model of their child for the symbolic cost of only 1 zloty (about 25 cents US). IN UTERO 3D is also expanding its Waiting without Barriers project outside of Poland, though in such cases the 3D printing will have to be done locally. That is, the startup will convert and prepare the 3D printable file (again for a symbolic cost of 1 euro) and send that file back to the mother who can print it at a local hub or 3D printing service.

Amazingly, this is not the first 3D printing project associated with unborn babies, as 3D printed fetuses were even listed as a top parenting trend of 2016, and they’ve been on our radar since as early as 2012. In 2015, a visually impaired mother was actually surprised with a 3D printed sculpture of her unborn baby, which warmed our hearts and brought the mother nearly to tears. Now, with IN UTERO 3D’s initiative, we hope to see that joy spread to visually impaired mothers everywhere.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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