A few decades ago, just being able to see a grainy black and white image of a body growing in a mother's womb was thought to be amazing enough. Now, soon-to-be parents might actually get a feel for what their baby is like.
Using 3D printing technology, the Brazilian company Tecnologia Humana 3D constructs physical replicas of a growing embryo or baby based on sonogram data.
An embryo imaged in 3D and printed in 3D at eight weeks. (Photo: Tecnologia Humana 3D)
12 weeks (Photo: Tecnologia Humana 3D)
The company's "Feto 3D" project initiated by founder Jorge Roberto Lopes dos Santos was initially created for diagnostic purposes. dos Santos found it had other applications as well though, like helping blind patients feel the growing baby they could not see on a screen.
“We work mainly to help physicians when there is some eventual possibility of malformation,” dos Santos said in an article published on Tech Page One earlier this month. “We also work for parents who want to have the models of their fetuses in 3D.”
11 weeks (Photo: Tecnologia Humana 3D)
26 weeks (Photo: Tecnologia Humana 3D)
Neva Fairchild with the American Foundation for the Blind told Tech Page One she saw a benefit to such an application of technology for those in the visually impaired community.
“Fifteen months ago, my first grandchild was born and they had numerous sonograms and I missed out on all of that,” Fairchild, who is legally blind, said.
As dos Santos stated, the technology was primarily created to better evaluate physical defects or more complicated pregnancies, as pictured in the image below.
Skeletons of conjoined twins at 35 weeks. (Photo: Tecnologia Humana 3D)
The cost of models vary based on the fetus' size with the full model of a 12-week fetus, for example, costing about $200.
Tecnologia Humana 3D is not the only company offering such services. This video shows a company based in Tokyo using the technology for a similar idea:
See more of the Tecnologia Humana 3D imaging and physical 3D replicas on its website here.
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This story was updated to correct a typo.