Silicone 3D Printing
This is the project that started Prosthetics Research Lab. Exerpt from the original GoFundMe campaign:
"I'm an anaplastologist and ocularist in Sacramento with a background in bioengineering, chemistry, and medical art. Each day I go to work to make prostheses for people who have lost an eye, an ear, or a nose.
Technology that can facilitate our work is abundant but our field is small and unique. Therefore it can be difficult sometimes to find specific tools that fit our needs. For small practices such as my place of employment, without access to hospital funding, we rely on our own innovations for professional advancement.
My long-term goal is to support a research and development group that will improve the body of knowledge and worksmanship in the field of facial prosthetics. Right now I am focusing on one project that has the potential to bring me there--3D printing silicone."
Ultimately, what I ended up with was the larger research and development group that I wanted to grow into, but I am certain that I made the right choice. Although I am now split between several projects, I still have every intention of making this project work.
Today, many anaplastologists are using 3D printers on a regular basis, but we can only produce the shape of the final product because a method for printing the silicones we want to use, with skin colors directly incorporated inside, is not available to most anaplastologists.
There are many types of silicones available, each with very different properties. Therefore it is difficult to develop a silicone printer that can accommodate an anaplastologist's needs. The anaplastologist also has more vigorous standards when it comes to color matching, since the prosthesis must be indistinguishable to the surrounding skin. Currently, printing a silicone prosthesis is a two-step process and requires an industrial 3D printer.
In August 2014, I presented this idea to Brook Drumm, CEO of PrintrBot, who had just purchased some materials to experiment with paste extrusion. We decided to combine my knowledge of silicone materials with his company's expertise in 3D printing to develop an extruder designed specifically for printing silicone prostheses. By November 2014, a beta version of a paste extruder is available for purchase (http://printrbot.com/shop/paste-extruder-beta/).
Our final goal is to develop a silicone extruder to fit an existing desktop 3D printer and successfully print a silicone prosthesis in color. If this goal is achieved, anaplastologists will be able to purchase their own printer inexpensively and print selected silicones already used for facial prostheses.