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How 3D printing is changing the hair game

Within the world of 3D printing, by far the most exciting developments involve the printing of body parts.

CLEVELAND — "It will be 12 years, October."

It's an anniversary Patty Robinson would rather forget.

A farm girl through and through, Robinson was helping her father with a grader on the family's tractor. She recalls her father dropped a pen and she bent over to pick it up. A momentary reaction that almost ended up taking her life.

Credit: Custom
Patty was helping her father when her long hair because caught in the machinery. It tore her scalp from the back of her neck to her eyelids. 

"I think I lost my balance. And I went toward the tractor. A big jerk took everything," she recalled.

Patty's long ponytail because caught in the machinery. It ripped off her scalp from the back of her neck, all the way forward to her eyelids. The violent force of the accident took most of her ears as well.

And Patty's long hair was gone.

She would be in a medically-induced coma for two weeks. Her first memory after waking is being inside a hyperbaric chamber, used to help her skin heal.

Patty would remain in the hospital for more than six weeks. But it would be six months before Patty could summon the courage to look in the mirror.

"It was shocking," Patty said, fighting back the tears.

Once the bandages came off, Patty turned to a bandana to continue work. And for years, wigs. At first she tried synthetic wigs, but they hurt her sensitive scalp. And they didn't fit properly because of her injuries. Patty shared how the hair pieces would slip, or even fall off in public. An embarrassment that damaged her spirit, but didn't break it.

Eventually, Patty sought the help of Jeffrey Paul's Hair and Scalp Specialists.

They created custom hairpieces for Patty, but her injuries - the sensitivity of her scalp and loss of her ears - presented unique challenges.

"The area here was always difficult for you to wear the hair system because it would come across the top of the ear. There is no ear, so you can't even wear earrings on this side," Jeffrey demonstrated.

Enter 3D printing, and an Italian company, Cesare Ragazzi Laboratories.

Ragazzi developed what's known as the CNC hair system. It's been described as a non-invasive hair transplant.

Once the biopolymer scalp is created, the hair is put in piece by piece. 

Last year, Jeffrey Paul took a mold of Patty's scalp.

Using all the bumps, ridges and scars that make each of our heads unique, a 3D model is printed in a micro-thin biopolymer material. This creates a second scalp customized to the client's head.

Credit: Custom
Clients are given several choices for hair that can closely match their hair thickness and texture. 

Scalp color is matched and so-called virgin hair, that's never been processed or treated, is applied one strand at a time to the polymer scalp. Human hair, that's never been processed or treated is applied one strand at a time - to polymer scalp.

"You've been waiting for this day," Jeffrey said as she led Patty to a chair where she would see herself in her CNC hair system for the very first time.

Patty Robinson tries on her CNC hair system for the first time. She lost her own hair in a farming accident nearly 12 years ago.

"It feels great," she said struggling to fight back the emotion. Jeffrey walked us through how the "second scalp" is placed on Patty's head.

"I'll tell you what this is like my second skin. It doesn't move for nothing," Patty declared.

In fact, she can leave the hair on for up to 2 weeks at a time, shower with it, swim in it too. She can wear it up, in a ponytail or pulled back.

We saw with our own eyes, how Patty's new hair looks and feels like a natural head of hair.

"Knowing her the amount of time I have, this smile changed the game for me. It just exploded within her," Jeffrey said.

Depending on hair length, and thickness, the 3D CNC hair system will run anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000. That's comparable to a number of other kinds of hair systems.

For more information visit Jeffrey Paul Hair & Scalp Specialists at www.hairscalp.com

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