3D Printing

3D Printing Surgeons Reconstruct Man in His Son's Image

Being here, right now, at the advent of 3D printing technology is exciting. 3D printing capabilities are slowly changing the way we experience the world around us, with 3D scanners on mobile devices, additive manufactured parts heading out to space, affordable and more comfortable prosthetics made available, and now a 3D printed face that allows one man to hold his head high and go into the world again after a horrendous battle with cancer.


Keith Lonsdale, a 74-year-old husband, father of three, and grandfather of eight can now feel confident about going to his local pub to eat and play darts like he used to, before aggressive basal cell carcinoma caused him to lose his nose, cheekbones, ­upper jaw, and much of his palate. Lonsdale has been battling for nearly 25 years, first with the cancer and then with finding a prosthetic that allowed him to eat, drink, and communicate comfortably. He has had several different kinds of face prosthetics, but none of them worked for him. The first prosthetic mask had to be glued on and would often slipp off of his face. As a result, he had to carry around a piece of elastic, just in case it started to slip off. Lonsdale’s wife, Marjorie, said that the first mask also didn’t look anything like her husband, which was frustrating for her and her family.


The second mask was also glued on, and Keith added plastic to the sides to tie around his head, but, eventually, the mask stretched and lost it’s shape. The third mask implemented Velcro straps to attach around Keith’s head, which also didn’t do the trick. Needless to say, it was rough going for several years, but Lonsdale kept up hope that eventually he would find a prosthetic that worked for him. His wife, Marjorie said, “I wanted his doctors to change the prosthetic for years so that he could at least have a chance of looking and ­feeling like he did before.”

Keith’s new 3D printed mask came courtesy of surgeons, scientists, and his 43-year-old son, Scott. Lonsdale’s son spent six hours at the hospital being photographed with a 3D camera. Then, images of Scott and his dad were uploaded into CAD software, where a program was used to fill in the missing pieces of Keith’s face. The team tells the Nottingham Post, “We used a new 3D camera to create images of both Keith and his son so we could literally fill in the gaps on a computer. We then formed the shape with a 3D printer, duplicated this shape in wax and refined it to reproduce the skin texture in fine detail. The final stage involved using a 5,000-year-old technique to create a mould in a life-like silicon material. Now that we have perfected the mould we can create as many versions as he needs and can even change the skin tones when he goes on holiday.”


Finally, surgeons extracted part of Lonsdale’s pelvic bone and fitted it into his face so that the mask could be attached using magnets instead of the elastic/velcrow nightmare that didn’t work.  The best part about the whole process is that, if anything happens to this prosthesis, it can easily be duplicated when Keith needs another one.


Now that Keith is enjoying his new prosthetic and taking off years by sporting his younger son’s likeness, his son says that his father enjoys going out, “It is difficult to get him down to the pub and I have to drag him to get a few pints, but once he’s there I have to drag him out again.”

Keith Lonsdale still carries the elastic from the first prosthetic face he wore. He says, “occasionally, I take it out to remind myself of how far I’ve come.”