Parents are getting life-size 3D models of their babies growing in the womb, thanks to a melding of 3D printing technology and prenatal imaging by a Brazilian company called Tecnologia Humana 3D.
Originally, the models were created for complicated medical cases (like conjoined twins), the company's founder Jorge Roberto Lopes Dos Santos says.
The sophisticated 3D programs create simulations and models of multiple layers of the fetus' tiny anatomy for doctors to examine virtually. The program can create models of organs and the skeletal system.
"We can make extremely lifelike models, so physicians and medical students can use them to practice incisions and learn about structures in the body," says Tomohiro Kinoshita, who works for Fasotec, a Japanese company that offers the same service.
"We work mainly to help physicians when there is some eventual possibility of malformation," dos Santos said. "We also work for parents who want to have the models of their fetuses in 3D."
Visually impaired pregnant women have traditionally missed out on the excitement of ultrasound photographs - but this technology can change all of that. Neva Fairchild of the American Foundation for the Blind told Tech Page One that the 3D models would "benefit visually impaired family members looking to share in the experience of seeing their loved one's unborn child for the first time."
While this service costs 100,000 yen (approx. $1,050) in Japan, in Brazil a 12 week life-size model of the baby in the womb costs $200, and $300 for a 24 week unborn baby.
The Japanese company Fasotec calls its service for parents "Shape of An Angel" and is looking to expand its offerings to include several price options as well as different model sizes and shapes.
Those grainy black-and-white ultrasound pictures of baby growing in mom's womb are so last century.