Cambridge based 3D printing service, Print My Part have been working with Ramiro M. Joly-Mascheroni, a PHD student within the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit at City University, London, to produce a range of visual development stimuli.
These stimuli are being used to carry out medical studies alongside doctors in European hospitals into the sight of prematurely born babies, and consequently the rehabilitation of an underdeveloped visual system.
Ramiro said that, according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. Of these, one in 20 is likely to be born blind or with severe loss of vision, a rise of 22% in the past decade.
In neonatal units, along with sensorimotor and neurological training, time in the incubator during their first periods of extrauterine life is considered of utmost importance. These first months, when babies rely completely on the incubator to survive, are also a vital opportunity to achieve significant rehabilitation of their underdeveloped visual system.
At present, early interventions in neonatal units consist of visually exposing and training eye-gaze using two and three-dimensional emoticon type pictures and objects.
To date, Print My Part have designed and created these three-dimensional models using their in house design skills and 3D printers. The printer in question uses the fused deposition modelling (FDM) technique to produce a series of white and black ‘slices’; which are later assembled. This provides the vivid contrast between white and black required for the models.
Using their in-house product design engineer, Print My Part were also able to adapt the design to improve the efficiency of the study. This was achieved by adding features such as ‘hold points’ to the base plate. Furthermore, the team is also designing a mounting part which can be attached to the incubator door, offering a secure mount location for the visual stimuli and effortless transition between the models.
Moving forward, there is also a large body of literature that shows the importance of the baby being exposed to human features. Babies follow and prefer human faces to objects, and they recognise their mother’s voice and facial expressions even when they are born extremely early in their uterine maturation process. Unfortunately, immunological risks and other issues often prevent parents from spending invaluable time in the tiny babies’ sensorineural and emotional development. This overall has an impact on the baby’s development, as from early age they are deprived of the essential social and maternal contact. This period has been proven to be important not only in the level of attachment, but also in the babies’ global progress.
The present project aims to provide a tool to improve the ‘parental social’ contact with the new-born that helps increase interest in engaging babies’ eye gaze behaviour and maintain a certain level of social contact with their beloved parents. Moving forward, Print My Part hope to progress their involvement in the project further, utilising Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing methods to achieve this.
Print My Part is run by an experienced product design engineer, and is home to in-house 3D printing equipment utilising both FDM and SLA 3D printing methods. Whether you need product design expertise, existing parts reverse engineering or a reliable and affordable 3D printing service, Print My Part can help.
Print My Part work with individuals, DIY’ers and businesses nationwide. For more information visit www.printmypart.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.