Expectant Parents Can Have 3D Models Of Unborn Babies

University students create 3D-pritned mask for dogs with severe facial injuries
A company is offering 3D model prints of unborn babies and the prints are based on 3D ultrasound photos. 3D printed models are used to study the fetal anatomy and the baby's health.  ( Julia Whitney | CDC )

What to expect when a woman is expecting? Expectant parents can see and hold their lifelike baby even before actual delivery - a 3D printed baby.

Innovations in ultrasound technology have enabled a Russia-based company to print 3D models of an unborn child using 3D ultrasound scans.

Embryo 3D offers printing standard and metal-plated 3D models of fetuses patterned after ultrasound scans.

3D Baby

The idea of a 3D printed fetus is not something that was born out of nostalgia. An Embryo 3D printed baby is not for memorabilia. The 3D printed baby will be used by doctors to observe the fetal anatomy and the baby's health.

Ivan Gridin, the founder of Embryo 3D, is into the 3D printing business and first printed a model of a baby for his friend. Gridin's friend was worried about the health of her unborn child and felt ultrasound imaging wasn't enough.

A 3D printed fetus has almost the same appearance as a real fetus. Embryo 3D specializes in printing even the most intricated details of a baby's face, hands, feet and umbilical cord.

"We ordered a 3D model of our child, which is in my belly now. It is a weird feeling, the child hasn't been born yet and but you can touch it and feel it as it is," says Yuliana Recun, an expecting mother who ordered a 3D model of her unborn child.

3D Printing In The Medical Field

Some of the most advanced uses for 3D printing are being developed in the medical field. Bioprinting involves the printing of specific living cell structures. It uses bio-ink to make an actual printed version of a digital model.

Scientists and researchers have successfully printed kidney cells, cardiac tissues that beat like a real heart, the foundations of a human liver, and many other organ tissues. Skin, stem cells, and cartilage can also be 3D printed.

3D printing is also widely used for cancer research. Cancer cell models are being printed to study how tumors develop. Heart and blood vessels are also 3D printed to aid in the research and development of heart repairs.

"One of the more immediate emerging trends is the use of 3D printing directly in hospitals," says Dr. Justin Ryan, a biomedical engineer and research scientist at Phoenix Children's Hospital's Cardiac 3D Print Lab.

Hospitals across the United States and around the globe are putting up 3D printing laboratories to allow healthcare professionals to incorporate 3D printing technology in their work.

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