UConn professor develops comfortable breast prosthetics with 3D printer

A professor at the University of Connecticut has developed a groundbreaking technique that may soon change the way women live their lives after breast cancer.
Dr. Liisa Kuhn, a biomedical engineer at UConn, has used her dentistry background to develop uniquely individual prosthetics for women who have had a breast removed.
"We're applying pressure to the back of a loaded syringe cartridge, and we build up layer by layer with a very soft material," said Kuhn.
Kuhn is using a 3D printer to make soft, compressible structures that are used as bra inserts.
Jan Figueroa from Cromwell was her motivation, becoming her very first patient.
"I would do anything for Liisa, so I said sure I'm game," said Figueroa.
They became friends after Figueroa had a lump removed at the UConn Health Center in Farmington in 2016.
"She was really frustrated by the options for bra inserts after a mastectomy," said Kuhn.
"This will form to exactly the way you want it on your body to look like the existing breast that you have so there's no difference," said Figueroa.
Figueroa says she didn't want to have a breast implant, so this was simpler option that has now changed her life.
"You want to look good, you want to look pretty. You just want something that you were before that you aren't now," said Figueroa.
Kuhn says she has gotten funding from the Beekley Family Foundation and the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative.
She's able to offer this as a free service, but the one 3D printer she uses costs $100,000 and takes a week to print one of these prosthetics.
"It's so exciting to me because this isn't the only place additive manufacturing is going to make a difference to the medical field. I think we're just on the cusp of some exciting things," said Kuhn.
Kuhn says she is also working with women in other states who can send her 3D images from their phones.
"The computer modeler would create the file, we send it to the printer, get the part package it up, put it in the mail to her," said Kuhn.
It's a project combining education and patient care in a unique way.
Kuhn has applied for a patent. You can reach Kuhn at lkuhn@uchc.edu