The Most Horrifying Use Of 3D Printing

As anyone with a Facebook account that’s over the age of 25 will tell you, 3D ultrasounds of fetuses are all the rage these days, with ultrasound pictures of the unborn recently taking the leap from black and white blobs to 3D – and 4D – images. With the advent of 3D printers, the inevitable has happened. Now you can order a 3D print of your yet-to-be-born progeny.

The company behind this – 3D Babies – takes 3D ultrasound data from weeks 24-32 and turns it into a 3D model. The printed 3D models sell for $800 for the full size version, $400 for a half-size version, and $200 for a quarter size version. It appears the 3D ultrasound data is simply wrapped around a pre-defined mesh, so while the resulting print may come out looking like your spawn, it’s still not a physical copy of the 3D/4D ultrasound data.

Despite the ‘creepy’ factor of these little bundles of plastic, we’re wondering why we haven’t seen anything like this before. Are there any obstetricians/radiologists/ultrasound techs out there that have experience with importing 3D ultrasound data into an editor of some sort? Notwithstanding any HIPAA violations, it seems it would be rather easy to turn this sort of 3D data into a printed object. 3D printing CT scans models can’t be the only other instance of this type of thing.

Thanks [Will] for the nightmares

38 thoughts on “The Most Horrifying Use Of 3D Printing

  1. i think the HIPAA rules are more about the attachment of the textual data of the medical records to a person.

    a better way is diy ultrasound scanner

    you could probably do it crudely by using the ultrasonic sensors found in the toner hoppers of some copiers and laser printers.

    they detect the toner level (i think) by measuring the density of the powder pile in the toner filler box.

    these are the kind of copiers that you buy the toner and it comes in a box that clipped onto another box on the copier and you pull a plastic strip to let the toner into the copier.

    most copiers use a self contained cartridge but there are some high end copiers that uses the refill box

    1. The HIPAA rules apply to ANY data that can be used to identify a patient, NOT just text. This includes ultrasound, X-Rays, ECG waveforms, verbal/spoken information, any images… if it can be used to identify a patient the rules apply. SO, if I happened to have any data and can identify the patient from that data, HIPAA applies… and if I’m not one authorized to access those records and I do so then it’s my a** as well as the hospital’s that’s in trouble.

      I have worked in several hospitals over 15 years (most as a contract employee) and we have to go through yearly training/certification on a number of regulatory items, including this. (It’s part of our annual reorientation test). They don’t even want you discussing patient information in public areas at the hospital on the off chance someone would recognize the patient. No, this doesn’t just apply to celebrities and yes I’ve worked at places where HIPAA rules were violated at some level.

  2. If I were them I’d sell an even smaller version to make a keychain from that women can hang on their phone.
    Because pulling a large fetus out of your handbag will make even the most dedicated mother-to-be feel a little.. freaky :)

    Although obviously they would be mounted or something in the home I expect, on the mantle or bookshelf or coffee table perhaps. But women that are into this would want to show it to people while on the go i expect, hence the keychain idea.

    1. “Because pulling a large fetus out of your handbag will make even the most dedicated mother-to-be feel a little.. freaky :)” Considering where she’s pulling the real baby out of I don’t see why. ;)

  3. I don’t understand the “Horrifying” or “creepy” adjectives.

    We just haven’t got to holograms so granny next to you on the plane can’t show you holos of her grandkids.

    A 3d model of a digestive organ would be strange, certain other organs obscene (and have been available for a long time), but those don’t seem to horrify or creep out people.

    Otoh, it doesn’t look like “a blob of tissue” – that it is perfectly legal to kill it by ripping it limb from limb is creepy and horrifying.

    1. Pretty sure that “ripping it from limb to limb” is not the actual method of killing the fetus (which btw looks nothing like this even at legal borderline for abortion), it’s just mechanical removal…

      1. In a second trimester abortion the fetus/unborn baby is usually too large to be removed in one piece; so it must be removed piece by piece (ie. dismember each limb and use suction to remove it). Often the skull has to be crushed with forceps as well. Do a google search for dilation and extracion abortions. It’s really quite sickening that it’s still legal.

        1. The fetus is not killed by dismemberment… it is killed with saline first and then extracted after death – in separate pieces if necessary. How should the effect of mechanical extraction of an already dead fetus have any bearing on the legalities of the procedure? No play on emotion please.

          1. There have been documented cases of babies surviving abortions, even by saline injection, although in most cases only for hours at most, the doctors having no legal right to save the child. A foetus could survive a saline injection only to later be ripped apart alive.

          2. Fred – there are very strict protocols in place to ensure confirmed fetal death prior to extraction. I do not believe your assertion that extraction is performed before confirmed fetal death and cannot help but think you are simply going off of anti-abortion propaganda. Please provide some unbiased sources to back your claim – otherwise I am sure we can agree that I am justified in not taking just your word for it. Thanks

          3. Thanks ferd for sharing that. I especially like the bit which says: “Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist…”

            So to repeat the earlier question, Please provide some unbiased sources to back your claim. Pointing at a rogue psycho to prove there’s no protocols is like pointing at a murderer and thus claiming there are no laws.

    1. No the new pope is to busy praising god for inventing the internet “Vint Cerf, Robert E. Kahn” apparently lost all Free will and god developed for them both…

      Banging my head on the nearest wall every time I think of that crap article in the paper.

    2. This must be the new version of Godwin’s Law. Your children are vastly more likely to be molested by family, coaches, or public school teachers than by religious ministers. And Catholic priests are less likely to do that than Protestant ministers.

  4. When my daughter was still unborn, I stumbled over an advertisement of an artist offering 3d sculptures of unborn babies. You just had to send her the ultrasound images (that’s about 25 years ago). So the “3d result” isn’t new, maybe “printing” it may be, but then again: I am sick of the hype around printing-this-printing-that. It looks garbage anyway.
    Second: The “resulting” object to me shows nearly zero resemblance to (faked?) “original” image. Why should I want a fake sculpture of something? Again: 3d print seems to be its own “art”, people buy every monster just because it’s “3d printed”. Maybe I could get rich by selling 3d printed poopoo. I just should give a try.
    Third: There is nothing horrific or terrifying about using techniques in every thinkable way. It’s only the people’s minds that make the use of technique “horrible”.

    1. You may not want such a 3D “sculpture” or whatnot of your yet-to-be born child, but I guarantee you plenty of people are out there who would pay for it. The whole “baby” and “child” culture is a fact (and in some ways it seems to me insane); plenty of stores out there that cater to actual and soon-to-be parents selling all kinds of weird crap at insane price levels – and tons of people buy the stuff. My main gripe with the “3d print of your fetus”?: Why didn’t I think of it first?

  5. It is sort of creepy. But that’s technology in general. And as was pointed out, 3D printing is being used in all sorts of medical research. Pretty soon we’ll be able, ad Doc Brown did in 2050, to have our guts ripped out and replace with fresh new tissue.

  6. No, this isn’t the horrifying use yet. There have already been photographers who specialize in taking pictures of still-born babies and touching them up to give the parents a view of what their child would have looked like alive.

    3d printing could take that to a whole new level!

  7. we had twins back in 2008; and it was high-risk. our first ultrasound we were told that the ‘smaller’ one wasn’t going to make it to term, but she did and is doing great, just like her sister.. We were advised by our specialty neonatal doctor that 3d ultrasounds were not medically necessary, and introduced extra chance of harm. apparently they crank up the frequencies of the two ultrasound wants to get good resolution, and this can in turn increase the temperature of the solid parts (bones) of the fetus, and can result in damage. 3D ultrasounds aren’t regulated, as they are a “luxury” of sorts. unfortunately they also don’t tell you any of this when you go in to have one done because you want to see what your baby looks like. my advise – don’t get a 3d ultrasound, and don’t find out the gender either. how few really great surprises do we get in life – this should be one of them!

    1. Knowing the developing baby is free from a wide range of congenital disorders, and prepping the family if need be, FAR outweighs the small (and mostly unproven) risks of ultrasound imaging.

    2. Wrong on cranking up the frequency. It is the same exact frequency as a 2D Ultrasound. The 3D is simply created by turning the beams in various angles. In order to have a safe ultrasound, check to make sure your tech actually went to school and trained as an OB tech. If the technology was dangerous it would be illegal but you want a tech that knows what they are doing so if there is an abnormality, it will be recognized.

  8. From a marketing point of view, if the baby shop in the high-street can get a decent 3D printer then it will drive down the cost of production and consumables. All the better. The results so far look like clones imho.

  9. The reason is not easy is pretty simple; The data is raster, not vector.

    There’s no easy conversion possible, “3d tracing” isn’t very well developed so your left with either trying to very crudely “dot-to-dot” a point cloud, or (for cleaner geometry) completely modeling from scratch, but with a nice 3d reference.

    “horrifying use”

    Really? Just wait till someone prints it in chocolate.

  10. Great, now pregnant women can be even more smug (with props!)

    And from the comments I think it’s safe to say that using a plastic version of your future baby as a conversation starter (whether life-size or a mini keychain version) will start plenty of conversations but many are going to instantly turn into vitriolic abortion debates. Yay.

    It’ll be the most fun when we can alter certain features before printing it, such as adding long fangs or pointy ears, or making it into a baby cyclops to freak out the grandparents because it’ll still have just enough of a family resemblance to cause a moment of panicked doubt (muahahahahaha).

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