Firm offering 3-D models of fetuses



Expectant parents who can’t wait to show the world what their baby will look like can now buy a 3-D model of the fetus to pass around to their friends.

The 9-cm resin model of the white fetus, encased in a transparent block in the shape of the mother’s body, has been fashioned by printer Fasotec Co. after an MRI scan.

“As it is only once in a lifetime that you are pregnant with that child, we received requests for these kinds of models from pregnant women who . . . do not want to forget the feelings and experience of that time,” said Tomohiro Kinoshita of Fasotec.

The model, titled “Shape of an Angel” and priced at ¥100,000, comes with a miniature version that could be a nice adornment to a mobile phone, Kinoshita added. Many young Japanese women have decorations attached to their cellphone straps.

Fasotic said the ideal time for a scan is around 8 or 9 months into the pregnancy. For those who would like a less-pricey version, the company will start offering a 3-D model of the face of the fetus for ¥50,000 in December, using ultrasound images taken at a clinic in Tokyo the firm has forged a tieup with.

Originally a supplier of devices including 3-D printers, Fasotec uses a layering technique to build up 3-D structures. The technique has been touted as a solution to localized manufacture on a small scale.

The company also produces 3-D models of internal organs that can be used by doctors to plan surgery or by medical students for training purposes, a company spokesman said. It is also possible that models can be used in hospitals to better inform patients what their problems are, instead of relying on difficult-to-understand diagrams.

The technology “realizes not only the form but also texture of the model — for example making it hard or soft,” Fasotec said. “By making a model that is similar to a real organ or bone, one can simulate operations and practice different surgical techniques.”

Kinoshita said the company hit upon the idea of making 3-D models of unborn babies in the hope that people would become more aware of the technology. The company said some medics could also foresee diagnostic possibilities with the models that might help predict difficulties in the birthing process.

The technology behind 3-D printers has been around for several decades, but recent advances have seen it gain popularity in several fields. The machines work in a similar way to inkjet printers, but deposit layers of material on top of each other, gradually building up the product they are making, instead of using ink.

Whereas traditional techniques only become efficient through economies of scale because of the need to produce molds, 3-D printers can make single copies of relatively complicated objects.