How Rapid Prototyping Is Helping Blind Parents "See" Their Unborn Children

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It's an incredible feeling when your doctor places a sonogram image of your unborn child in your hands. For the first time, you get to see the tiny features of the little human that you'll soon be holding in your arms. But, how do you cherish this moment if you're blind or visually impaired? Thanks to rapid-prototyping technologies, now you too can get a sneak-peak at your baby boy or girl.

What Is Rapid Prototyping?

The process of rapid prototyping utilizes a highly sophisticated software, and a 3D printing device. Images are scanned into a computer, and the software analyzes the images and breaks them down into cross-sections. These cross-sections are then printed out with one of a variety of materials, and successively stacked on top of one another to create an exact 3D replica of the image.

How Can Rapid Prototyping Help You, As A Blind Parent, See Your Unborn Child?

The 3D software used in the creation of 3D printing is now able to analyze sonogram images! Sonogram images captured during an ultrasound can be directly scanned into a 3D printing machine and then printed out to produce a to-scale, exact replica of your child's face, or entire body, while they're still in the womb. With this replica in hand, an expecting parent who is blind or visually-impaired can use their sense of touch to feel every tiny feature of their soon-to-be newborn baby. 

Is The Procedure Invasive?

In most cases, your doctor will recommend that you receive an ultrasound exam to help him or her determine the well-being of your baby. This exam is completely noninvasive, and while the long-term effects of repeated ultrasounds are unknown, there are no risks associated with undergoing the procedure a single time. 

During the procedure, a small amount of gel is rubbed onto your abdomen. A probe-like tool called a transducer is then used to scan the area covered in gel. The gel works as a conductor of sound waves, and the transducer captures the sound waves as they bounce back from within your body. The ultrasound machine can then use the varying sound waves to generate an image, or sonogram of your baby.

During the ultrasound, your doctor can easily print out a sonogram image, and that's all you'll need to request a 3D replica of your little one.

What If Your Medical Facility Doesn't Offer The Service?

The concept of applying rapid prototyping to sonogram images is a relatively new breakthrough, and it's quite possible that your medical facility won't be able to field your request. If this is the case, contact a rapid prototyping facility directly. Since there is no medical procedure involved in the actual creation of the replica, it's perfectly find to seek out the service on your own.

Will Your Insurance Cover It?

Rapid Prototyping of a fetus is sometimes requested by a doctor in order to help them better analyze an expected birth defect. If your doctor has specifically requested a replica, it may be covered by your medical insurance provider.

If a 3D replica of your unborn child is not medically necessary, though, your insurance carrier will not cover the costs. While the cost of seeking rapid prototyping of your sonogram from a private company varies greatly, it is expected that, as more medical facilities adopt the practice, the price could be as low as $300 for a life-size replica of an entire fetus at 24 weeks gestation. 

If you are a blind or visually-impaired expecting parent, don't miss that special moment where you get a glimpse of your much-anticipated bundle of joy. Talk to your doctor, or a rapid-prototyping specialist about creating a replica of your unborn baby that you can explore with your sense of touch. Click here to continue reading more about how rapid prototyping can help you.