A voluntary organization based in the UK, REMAP provides bespoke solutions for people with disabilities whose needs cannot be met using off-the-shelf devices, or via primary avenues of help available to them, such as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). One of REMAP’s long-term volunteers, Bill Fraser, a 75-year-old retired engineer, lives in the Scottish Highlands, near Inverness.
Bill was working on ways of helping a young woman named Karis, who had problems with her respiratory system. The need to continuously wear a mask for much of her life had caused her natural facial profile to change, so that a standard mask eventually leaked unacceptably. In another case, a woman in the Outer Hebrides had struggled for years to perform everyday chores because of her acute skin sensitivity. Born without several of her fingers, Helen was unable to use regular protective gloves.
The budget version of the bestselling scanner Artec Eva, the Artec Eva Lite offers the same accuracy yet with reduced functionality, allowing it to focus on creating high-quality textureless scans when working with objects rich in geometry, such as human body parts. As a relatively inexpensive option, the Eva Lite is ideal for anyone seeking a professional 3D scanner without a large budget to draw from.
Patrick traveled to Edinburgh in Scotland with the Eva Lite, where he was met by Bill and one of his REMAP colleagues. They spent a day of tutoring with Patrick as he demonstrated how to conduct 3D scanning, explained the ins and outs of the Eva Lite, and shared some ideas on how they may achieve their goal utilizing the scans in other 3D packages. Within days of Patrick’s visit, Bill had successfully scanned Karis’ facial profile, and had also completed a trip out to the Hebrides, returning with the long-awaited scans of Helen’s hands. Prior to all this, Bill had had no scanning experience.
Creating a customized breathing mask
This case revolves around Karis, a young woman with congenital muscular dystrophy. This restricts her physically to a wheelchair and leaves her completely dependent on her carers for support. For many years, she has needed a ventilator and full face mask to effectively assist her breathing. Karis is bright and intelligent, and – despite all the complications she has to contend with – maintains an impressively positive and communicative outlook on life. Her wide range of outside interests includes the classics, art, film, the theater, and football, to name just a few! In all of these, she participates to the fullest extent possible. Recently she completed her honors degree in Creative Writing & Classical Studies at the Open University, and was honored to be specially invited to London to participate in celebrations of the Open University’s 50th Anniversary.
Unfortunately, the need to constantly wear a face mask for many years caused a gradual change to her natural facial profile. This ultimately led to the situation where a standard face mask would no longer seal properly against her face. The consequence was increasingly inadequate respiratory function, which in turn was starting to seriously affect Karis’ health and quality of life. Any effective solution would need to find some way of improving the seal between her mask and her altered facial profile.
Bill had already devised a mask seal modification that had worked well for Karis from 2015 until 2019. However, due to ongoing changes to her face, leakage was now beginning to develop again beyond this modification. Resolving this would require a bespoke mask designed specifically to suit Karis. This could not be done unless her face could be scanned to obtain the exact geometry of her facial profile. Any scanning process would have to be quick; without her mask on, Karis can’t breathe.
Using the Artec Eva Lite, in less than 30 seconds, Bill was able to acquire the detailed scan of Karis’ facial profile that he needed. Work on creating the custom mask could then begin.
To avoid the need to repeatedly remove her mask and interrupt her breathing to carry out progress checks, a 3D print-out was made from the new scan data for Karis’ face. The original silicone lip seal was carefully dis-bonded from the shell of a standard mask. A detailed scan was then made of the exposed edge of the rigid mask shell. Utilizing 3D design software, the shape of an extension piece was calculated by digitally lofting the edge of the original shell to meet the scanned image of Karis’ facial profile. The required extension piece was then physically created by 3D-printing the calculated shape from PLA. Finally, the inner edge of the extension piece was bonded to the original mask shell, and the original silicon lip seal was re-bonded onto the outer edge of the extension piece.
These modifications enabled the lip seal to function as intended, and to seal the mask against Karis’ face with significantly reduced tension in the mask head-straps. Satisfactory respiratory function was restored, and the mask is now more comfortable to wear. Work continues to refine the shape of the extension piece and further improve the performance of the custom mask.
“Karis is a truly remarkable young lady, who doesn’t allow the significant difficulties she has to contend with to in any way diminish her bright and enthusiastic outlook on life,” says Bill. “I’m truly grateful to Artec for facilitating procurement of the scanner that enabled us to help her.”
Development of further improvements to both face mask and gloves is ongoing. However, one fact is clearly evident: Neither the shape of Karis’ face, nor the shape of Helen’s hands, could have been adequately defined without the application of 3D scanning technology. “The Artec Eva Lite scanner provided us with that technology,” Bill says. “Without it and the continued support from Patrick, neither project could have progressed with the accuracy and creativity required to produce an effective solution.”
Moving forward, REMAP continues its work to provide custom solutions for those to whom disability presents problems in everyday living, and who have to face up to and overcome unique challenges. Regrettably, in these times of severely constrained resources, it often seems that those affected feel they have been failed by the organizations that the rest of us might have expected to provide the assistance they need.
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