The project has been funded for five years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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 who have been affected, 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 five 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. There is no good computer model for 3D facial skin appearance, even with the latest digital imaging techniques.