Research themes

AMFaces has five interrelated research themes.

Research Theme 1: Precise computer facial models
To capture facial appearance, both surface detail and light reflecting properties are needed, not possible with conventional colour cameras. The objective here is to create an integrated digital 3D representation of the face and head using 3D angular hyperspectral imaging and high-resolution depth imaging. These physical data will be related to human perception of colour, texture, and translucency over extended surfaces, and validated against silicone test samples and areas of real faces.

Research Theme 2: Novel additive manufacturing systems
Current additive manufacturing (3D printing) systems have a limited ability to produce high-fidelity silicone components necessary for maxillofacial prostheses. The objective here is to develop a hybrid process using a high-viscosity reactive-jetting printer for volume and a multi-axis aerosol jet printer for micro-features, and then combine them into a single device. Additionally, a scalable pipeline will be developed to transform patient imaging data to the computerized production of prostheses.

Research Theme 3: Biocompatible materials and colourants
Skin colour, texture, and translucency vary continuously over the face and head, with coloration determined by several pigments. The objective here is to establish baseline characteristics of facial skin populations and to develop high-fidelity test specimens spanning the gamut of skin colours, along with new formulations of silicone elastomer materials suitable for additive manufacturing. Biocompatibility, mechanical properties, and longevity of colour, texture, and feel will be tested in specialist university facilities.

Research Theme 4: Product evaluation and quality assessment
Clinical relevance and patient acceptance are central to this research. The objective here is to evaluate the mechanical, physical, and colour properties of additive manufactured samples to ensure that they match patient expectations. Results will be fed back into the fabrication process and the process repeated until the samples achieve the required fidelity for representing facial skin.

Research Theme 5: Public involvement and open science
Members of the project team will use meetings, seminars, and outreach activities to involve patient and support groups (e.g. PPIE public involvement and engagement groups), external stakeholders, charities, and networks to maximize the benefit of this research to patients and the wider public. The results of the research – information relating to facial skin images, 3D computer models, new materials, skin coloration, and new manufacturing methods – will be made freely available through open-access repositories.