Dec 2, 2016 | By Julia

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh is using 3D printing technology to make a new ear for nine-year-old Anya Storie. Born with the congenital condition microtia, Anya has always had an underdeveloped right ear which, as a result, has affected her hearing.

But thanks to the hospital’s 3D scanning and printing resources, plastic surgeon Ken Stewart will be able to create a new ear – a replica of Anya’s other ear, formed out of cartilage from her ribcage – and surgically attach it. The operation will enable Anja to hear out of both ears. Both the nine-year-old and her parents are looking forward to the procedure, and remain hopeful of the results.

Anya Storie holding the 3D printed replica of her left ear

Like many children with disabilities, Anya has bravely faced a lifetime of bullying and unwarranted comments. “I usually ignore it when people at my school make comments but I’m so glad to be getting my new ear – it is so exciting and I can’t wait,” the nine-year-old said. “Anya puts on a brave face” says her mother, “but there is no doubt [the bullying] has impacted her confidence.”

Anya’s parents decided to wait and see how technology developed before deciding what was best for Anya. “Reforming an ear is an extremely difficult procedure,” explains her mother, “but the chance to do it now, using the 3D scanner and printer, seems like the right time.”

a handheld 3D scanner capturing Anya's left ear

An Artec 3D handheld scanner starts the process, capturing a 3D image of Anya’s left (fully developed) ear. A detailed 3D scan of the ear gradually materializes on screen. Hospital technicians then flip the scan to create a 3D mirror image: identical to Anya’s left ear, and a replacement for the right side of her head.

a 3D scan of Anya's ear allows for precise modelling

The data then gets sent to St. John’s Hospital in Livingston, where a 3D printer manufactures a plastic hard copy of the scanned image. Once sterilized, the 3D printed ear will serve as a guide in the operating theatre for how the new ear should be carved from Anya’s rib cartilage.

The 3D scanner was funded by The Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation. Stewart says it has vastly improved his team’s work. “We’re able to get more sophisticated carving, we’re more able accurately to replicate the details of the opposite ear,” he explains.

Once Anya’s ear is scanned and 3D printed as a model, she will undergo three operations. The first will fit the structure of a new ear underneath the skin on the side of Anya’s head. Once the skin conforms, a second surgery will fix the replacement ear, made of cartilage, into the desired position. Finally, a third procedure will open the ear canal that has been closed Anya’s entire life.

Anya Storie and her mother

From Stewart’s perspective, this is just the beginning of the advances 3D scanning and printing technology could achieve in medicine. “We’re also doing some work with the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University,” he says. “Ultimately we want to 3D print the ear that we want as a matrix and combine that with a mixture of stem cells and cartilage cells to grow an ear in a lab and implant that.” It sounds like we’ll be seeing a lot more medical solutions derived from 3D printing tech in the years to come.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Maeve wrote at 12/6/2016 4:23:28 PM:

Are there any pictures of the finished ear?

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