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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W033968/1
Title: AMFaces: Advanced Additive Manufacturing of User-Focused Facial Prostheses with Real-Life Colour Appearance
Principal Investigator: Foster, Professor DH
Other Investigators:
Tuck, Professor CJ Winwood, Dr K Wildman, Professor R
Cartmell, Professor SH Ruiz Cantu, Dr L Yates, Professor JM
Coward, Professor T Harris, Professor RA Saleh, Dr E
He, Dr Y
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr K Amano
Project Partners:
3D LifePrints AboutFace - Poole Added Scientific Ltd
Spectromatch Ltd
Department: Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 April 2023 Ends: 31 March 2028 Value (£): 5,540,752
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Medical science & disease
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Jul 2022 ELEMENT Programme Grant Interview Panel 19 20 and 21 July 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Facial prostheses are needed when patients are treated for certain cancers or accidental injuries affecting, for example, the nose, lips, eyes, ears, or skin. The quality of prostheses is naturally very important for patients, both protecting the affected area and giving them confidence, self-esteem, and an improved quality of life.

The demand for facial prostheses is growing rapidly, with increases in cancer rates, an ageing population, and rising patient expectations. Within the UK, there are currently over half a million people with facial disfigurement, and each year about 2,500 new patients need facial prostheses. Compounding the problem, prostheses need to be renewed every 12-18 months as they degrade and discolour.

At present the production of facial prostheses is technically demanding and lengthy, with the end-product depending on the skill of only a few highly experienced maxillofacial prosthetists. Their number is likely to diminish further with 20% of the workforce due to retire over the next 5 years.

A new approach is needed urgently to deliver consistent high-quality prostheses to patients in a timely and cost-effective manner. There are, though, significant challenges. To date, no modern manufacturing method has managed to control medical grade silicone to reproduce facial skin tissue with the necessary softness, colour, surface texture, and flexibility, all in high fidelity. In fact, there is no good computer model for 3D facial skin appearance, even with the latest digital imaging techniques.

To meet these challenges, we have brought together a multidisciplinary team of experts and early career researchers (ECRs) from five universities whose expertise is essential for a successful outcome: clinicians in maxillofacial and oral surgery, scientists and engineers in 3D printing (additive manufacture or AM), reconstructive science, biomaterials, colour science, and imaging. The multidisciplinary nature of this project will allow ECRs to gain broader knowledge, skills, and leadership training in different research areas, mentored by researchers at the forefront of their fields.

Our work entails several innovations:

- introducing 3D hyperspectral imaging and computer modelling of facial skin colour, texture, 3D shape, and translucency for all ethnicities

- developing hybrid AM systems for manufacturing medical silicone parts with micron-level modelling of skin surface colour and texture

- transforming physical modelling data to digital pipeline AM printer control

- formulating new medical silicones and colorants with improved longevity

- maintaining throughout a patient-centred approach, with patient feedback incorporated at every stage of the manufacturing process.

The tight integration of these advances is central to achieving our goal, enabling the prompt delivery of bespoke ultra-realistic facial prostheses on demand.

The results of the research will be delivered mainly through two NHS Foundation Trusts (Manchester University and Guy's and St Thomas', London) and will support regional NHS networks for prosthetic services and charities. We will work with local SMEs to facilitate sustainable research development and further investment. We will share our technological innovations with the clinical, scientific, and engineering communities, especially with developing countries with limited resources.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk