Heather Goodrum, a forensic art graduate has become the first forensic artist in the UK to join a NHS hospital's facial reconstruction team. She will digitally-design and 3D print implants for patients needing mouth, jaw, head and neck surgery at Swansea's Morriston Hospital. Designed using patients' own CT scan images, they are anatomically accurate which makes them a better fit.
It is hoped the process will also save surgeons time as they will no longer have to shape implants by hand.
The skills Ms Goodrum uses are similar to those used to reconstruct an image of Richard III's face after his skull was found during the archaeological excavation of a Leicester car park.
Similar practices are also used to create police e-fits based on witness descriptions.
Peter Llewelyn Evans, maxillofacial laboratory services manager at Morriston Hospital, said 3D planning for head and neck reconstructions had really grown in the past five years but hospitals did not have anyone trained to do it.
The role did not exist in the NHS so the hospital decided to create a specific post themselves.
Ms Goodrum developed an interest in digital design and 3D software after completing a degree in theatre design at Nottingham Trent University.
Later she completed a masters degree in facial forensic art at the University of Dundee, creating facial reconstructions from skulls - first using clay and then digitally - before becoming interested in how the digital work could be applied to facial surgery.
She said: "The surgeons decide how they want to be able to do the surgery and the design side is then down to me and the reconstructive scientists in our team.
"I'll design the part required and the team and I sit down together to make any alterations. Once complete it is sent away for 3D printing."
"I've also learnt a lot from being able to go into theatre and getting feedback straight away."
"You're really part of the team and you do develop a rapport with the surgeons. You know you are literally helping patients rebuild their lives."
Other UK hospitals have been in contact about Ms Goodrum's work and are interested in creating a similar post.
Story from BBC News. Image Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board