After a cancerous lump was discovered on his tongue in the '90s, Shirley Anderson underwent a number of surgeries and radiation treatments. While those treatments rid his body of cancer, they also caused him to lose his lower jaw and severely damaged his facial tissue. According to FastCoDesign, after a failed procedure involving a re-creation of his face using chest muscles, Anderson found Travis Bellicchi, a maxillofacial prosthetics specialist at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, and others who began developing a one-of-a-kind prosthesis for him.
The process began with traditional methods of plaster face casting and silicone molding, according to FormLabs. Anderson's mold was hand painted to match his skin tone and made for a custom fit. Unfortunately, it was also heavy and uncomfortable, so he could only wear it for four hours at a time. Bellicchi connected with Zeb Wood of the university's School of Media Arts and Sciences and began working on a more technologically advanced, less labor-intensive solution.
"They really couldn’t believe how easy it was," Wood's student Cade Jacobs said of the process, which involved digital scans and modeling instead of plaster.
Using FormLabs's 3D printers, the team turned the digital models into molds, which were then used to create a prosthesis that was lighter, more breathable, and more detailed than the original. After finding success in Anderson's case, the specialists used the method to sculpt and create prostheses for several others, FormLabs reports. Check out the video above to see the design process and to learn more about Anderson's story.
Banner image credit: Formlabs on YouTube
Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at email@example.com.