A Huggies-sponsored clip showing visually impaired mother-to-be Tatiana Guerra as she “sees” her unborn child for the first time with a 3D printed ultrasound has racked up nearly 10 million views on YouTube.
A São Paulo-based digital production outfit known as “The Goodfellas” produced the print. Using a special file extension available on newer ultrasound machines, The Goodfellas transferred the image into a treatment stage. They cleaned out amniotic fluid and other bits of interference, bringing enhanced definition to the baby’s shape. From there, a technician 3D printed the file and added a bonder to the print for increased durability. The result: a Han-Solo-in-carbonite style plaque of baby Murilo.
“The work is having great impact and we believe that with this move it is possible that this demand [will] increase,” said The GoodFellas founder and CEO Caroline Rau, in Porteugese. “Laboratories want to invest more in this type of service for disabled pregnant people.”
The Goodfellas was chosen because it already possessed the technical knowledge to execute 3D printing production, Rau said. The company’s first experience with 3D printing came on a NASA campus with an astronaut’s help during a Singularity University program.
The technology to 3D print fetuses has been around since at least 2011. Before the commodification of 3D printing, a Welsh company commissioned a project to turn digitized 3D ultrasounds into files compatible with commercial modeling equipment like surface lasers, CNC machines, and industrial 3D printers.
In 2012, Japanese company Fasotec started offering miniature 3D printed replicas of a fetus to parents who wanted a keepsake from their pregnancy. Those prints were encased in a clear resin, purely visual in nature and no help to the visually impaired.
“We love challenges and always seek appropriate solutions for our projects, whether simple, complex, innovative, or traditional,” Rau said.
At least one company, 3D Babies, has made a business out of printing 3D ultrasounds. “For best results, you can schedule your 3D ultrasound during gestation weeks 23-32,” says the company’s website. Prints are offered in full and half sizes, come in light, medium, and dark skin tones, and run $250 to $550. 3D Babies ship in 2-3 weeks and come with closed eyes and no hair, the website explains.