In 1984, Chuck Hull first invented 3-D printing. The invention heralded the arrival of countless innovations that had not yet been imagined. The industry first started booming several years ago and the technology was used mainly by manufacturers. Car parts, smartphone cases, fashion accessories, and medical equipment were the first products to be created by 3-D printers.

Today, the technology has achieved great potential in healthcare because of its customizable nature. Currently, the largest 3D-printed healthcare applications are prosthetics, dental implants and hearing aids. However, the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research group, achieved a daring feat with this new technology — they completed the organization’s first 3-D printed face transplant on a patient, Andrew Sandness, of Newcastle, Wyoming.

A long-time sufferer of depression, Andrew landed in the hospital after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in 2006. He lost his jaw and nose, and was left with only two teeth. The extent of his injuries left his face in a state of disrepair. First, he tried prosthetics and a series of unsuccessful surgeries. But it would take nearly six years for Andrew to learn about the Mayo Clinic’s work in the world of face transplants.

On June 16, 2016, Andrew had a donor with a match. Using a 3-D printed surgical guide and model, the medical team at The Mayo Clinic sprung into action for the first surgery of its kind. The process took 56 hours to complete. Preparation time required 24 hours to harvest the donor’s skin, tissue, bone, muscle, and nerves. The remaining 32 hours were spent transplanting the harvested tissue.

Andrew may have stumbled upon the procedure at the right moment; however, it took a total of 60 specialists and three and a half years of research to successfully implement the procedure. Doctors from multiple fields were enlisted to help: plastic and reconstructive surgeons, transplant medical specialists, neurologists, dermatologists, radiologists, infectious diseases specialists, speech and language pathologists, and even psychiatric and social work experts.

“I was just absolutely blown away by the results,” said Andrew in an interview with “I just feel like a normal person walking around outside. Going to the shopping malls, nobody stares. I feel normal; feel like another face in the crowd. And now, with this transplant, I just feel more confident and more comfortable doing these things.”

You can watch videos of the incredible procedure below.

3D-Printing Helped This Man Get A New Face

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic used 3D-printed models to prepare for their first-ever face transplant. Subscribe to Vocativ: Find us everywhere else: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Snapchat: Website: Vocativ explores the nexus of media and technology, where science meets storytelling.

3D Printed Models Used in the Mayo Clinic’s First Face Transplant

3D printed cutting guides created by 3D Systems helped to prepare the surgical team at the Mayo Clinic for a face transplant. “In the three years leading up to Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant procedure, dozens of medical specialists rehearsed the full transplant operation more than 30 times.

Jon Belsher is a business health executive based in Austin, Texas. Jon completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona, and fellowship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. During this time, Jon Belsher was awarded “Teacher of the Year” twice and the prestigious “Chief Fellow.”