Face Donor to Get 3D Printed Mask for Burial

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New York University 3D printing specialists are to 3D print the face of a brain-dead man, before it is transplanted to a waiting recipient. It is thought the lifelike mask will bring dignity to funeral proceedings for the donor’s family.

Plastic surgeons at New York University’s Langone Medical Center will perform an extraordinary surgery this summer. They will lift the face from a brain-dead donor and graft it onto the head of a patient who has significant injury.

Understandably, the donation of a face is considerably more traumatic for the donor’s family. Special permission is required, since the typical organ donation checkbox on the driving license doesn’t include the face.

It is effectively giving up the one remaining, recognizable feature of the person. And so masks are created in an attempt to soften the blow.

Previously, silicone masks taken from a mold of the face would be provided for the donor’s burial. But these typically achieve around 75 percent accuracy.

Looking to change this for the better, New York University’s LaGuardia Studio 3D print lab will handle the production of this particular death mask, aiming for approximately 95 percent accuracy. It is hoped a better mask that is nigh on lifelike will ease the suffering further, and hopefully if common practice, make securing permission for future cases easier.

NYU face donor 3d printed mask
The 3D model of a face as it is being scanned. (Image: Vincent Tullo / The New York Times

Lifelike, Down to the Pores

Technicians from LaGuardia will use a handheld scanner to capture a scan of the donor’s face. Across several passes, a full high resolution 3D model is generated.

After several hours post-processing in modeling software, the 3D model is then passed along for printing on one of LaGuardia’s large industrial 3D printers. From the description of the material being “an acrylic-based photopolymer” we suspect the machine is likely the 3D Systems ProJet 7000 HD SLA.

This machine features an “Xtreme-high Definition Print Mode” which, printing at layer heights of 0.00635mm, certainly seems like an appropriately capable machine for perfectly rendering every facial detail.

Post-procedure, the mask replaces the donor’s face with a bandage wound around to cover the seams. The result is a life-changing gift to a stranger in need, and dignity in death.

Source: The New York Times

NYU face donor 3d printed mask
A low-resolution demo example of the mask to be printed. (Image: Vincent Tullo / The New York Times

(Lead image: Vincent Tullo / The New York Times)

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