3D printers manufacture an object based on the blueprint in a digital file, depositing material layer by layer. Chuck Hull invented the process in the 1980’s, when he printed the first 3D object: a tiny cup. I know. Pretty boring. Bow the technology has advanced to the point where we can 3D print virtually anything – prosthetic limbs, a handgun, chocolate, a violin, an electric car and a life-like model of your unborn child.
Ivan Gridin, the founder of the Russian firm Embryo 3D, created the innovative new service to help out his friend. During her pregnancy, Yuliana Recu grew concerned about the health of her unborn child and wanted to see the fetus in more detail. “She had an ultrasound several times, but it wasn’t enough,” said Ivan. “I was fond of new technologies at that time and 3D-printing. And I said let’s print it.”
So, Yuliana underwent an ultrasound scan, and a 3D printer built a physical fetus based on that image. The model is incredibly life-like, replicating the specific facial features as well as the shape of the fingers and toes. Expectant parents can observe their unborn child in better detail, and keep an eye out for any abnormalities. “Earlier we printed only from plastic,” says Ivan. “But now we are able to make plaster models and cover them with precious metals.” Those precious metals include silver and gold, which means you can get a golden model of your unborn child. It would make for quite a conversation piece on your coffee table.
In an interview, Yuliana said that the 3D model gave her comfort, although holding it gave her an odd feeling. “We ordered a 3D model of our child, which is in my belly now” she told the International Business Times. “It is a weird feeling, the child hasn’t been born yet and but you can touch it and feel it as it is.” For some expectant parents, the 3D model is much more appealing than the grainy ultrasound.
However, virtual reality models produce the most clear and realistic images of the fetus. When soon-to-be parents strap on the head set, they can observe the fetus in an immersive virtual world. Since the model uses MRI scans, the image is much more accurate. The respiratory tract is displayed and you can even hear the baby’s heartbeat. The objective is to make sure the baby is healthy and relieve the worries of the parents – but it also just sounds cool. Virtual reality isn’t just for Fruit Ninja anymore.
It’s a bit unnerving to see a model of a fetus outside the womb, but maybe this service will become common in the future. It’s stunning what 3D printers can do. And even if you think this model is creepy, you have to admit, printing an unborn baby is much more interesting than that lame tiny cup.