Parents-to-be have always been impatient to meet their newborns. And now they have the chance to see them in life-like detail – as a 3D printed model.
Until now, most parents first set eyes on their unborn babies in the form of a hazy black-and-white ultrasound scan, while those who are prepared to pay more can get a 4D video.
But the rapidly evolving technology of 3D printing is giving parents a much clearer view of their baby. Clinics in Japan are offering to print models of foetuses from inside pregnant womens' stomachs – and even give them a copy to take home as a memoir of their pregnancy.
Technicians use MRI scans and a technology called Bio-Texture modelling, which converts the MRI data into a 3-D image. Then a 3-D printer builds up the three-dimensional image.
One mum who has experienced the new technology is seven months' pregnant Kumi Mendoza.
She said: "When I first saw it I was really moved. The nose and the lips looked so real and the print looked like something that had been done by hand. I'm still surprised that a machine could produce something like this."
By allowing for greater clarity and detail, developers hope the 3D modeling can be used to improve the health of babies and mothers in the future.