Simon from 3ders.org

Faith’s New 3D Printed ArmFor all of the amazing stories we hear about what additive manufacturing is capable of – whether it’s in creating on-demand tools in space, creating houses using available earth materials that are sourced on-location, providing scaffolding for cell structures or for creating next-generation chocolate desserts – these stories pale in comparison to how the technology is aiding the human spirit.

While we’ve previously seen how 3D printing has been life-changing for young superheroes in need of a prosthetic arm – or even our four-legged friends for that matter – we’ve been yet to hear very many stories about the technology is helping to aid the deaf and blind in living a fuller life … until now.

Many of us might not be able to imagine being blind or deaf, but for the recently-widowed Faith Altheide, being both blind and deaf is an everyday reality.  Among other ways that Faith communicates and expresses emotions with others is in feeling their facial features.  With her daughter Denise heading off to college this fall, this means that Faith will no longer be able to experience her daughter’s presence like she’s been used to for the past 18 years – through touch.

Aiming to help make this transition easier for Faith, Faith’s caregiver Patricia Ingraham reached out to Maconaquah Middle School in Bunker Hill, Indiana to see if they would be able to create a 3D printed replica of Denise.  Without hesitation, Maconaquah teachers Ron Shaffer and Cory Howard agreed to take on the project.   

    

To create the 3D printed replica of Denise, Shaffer and Howard began the process by taking a series of photographs of Denise that were then stitched together to create a 3D model – a process that has been made easier now thanks to an ever-increasing range of software options.  

Once the 3D model was made, Shaffer and Howard cleaned it up so that it would be optimized for the 3D printing process.  At this stage, they also adjusted the 3D print settings using MakerBot’s MakerWare so that the model would be both light and durable enough to be used regularly.  Finally, the optimized 3D model was then printed on a MakerBot Replicator using white PLA filament.  

While we’ve seen 3D printed busts such as the one created by Shaffer and Howard before – particularly those that have been created using 3D scanning booths – it’s clear that this is among one of the best uses for both 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies when it’s put to great use.