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Printing up compassion in 3D

Heart

Scanning tech meets humanity at Detroit’s eLUXE 3D

There is no remedy to cure the tragic hurt caused by the loss of a child. For a grieving parent, the best one can hope for is time to process the pain and a few happy memories. Time comes easy, but for parents of stillborn children, happy memories are often in short order.

Srdjan Urosev hopes his company, eLUXE 3D might be able to change that.

Under Urosev’s guidance, eLUXE 3D has become one of the few companies in the technology landscape that is at the forefront of the 3D scanning industry. And it’s the only one that is having success when it comes to scanning detail jewelry pieces.

So what does a 3D scanning company that specializes in jewelry have to do with grieving parents?

The answer to that comes from the Robieson family of Chicago.

On October 6, 2013, the Robieson’s lost their infant son at birth.

“That was our third pregnancy,” Jeremy Robison says. “We were planning to stop at three [children]. The doctor’s don’t know why we lost him. Science is good to a point, but we have no idea why we lost our son. When babies are in the womb, they are supposed to be protected, but somehow our son got a virus with no breach to the protective sac.”

The Robieson’s son was delivered by emergency cesarean section, but he was stillborn.

“He was beautiful,” Robieson says. “He was two pounds, 11 ounces. He was perfect.”

Jeremy and his wife Kristina named the boy Christian as a nod to their faith and some high expectations that would, sadly, never be realized. The name “Christian” is also a nod to his mother, as it’s the male form of Kristina and a way for Jeremy to honor his wife.

What happened after Christian Robieson’s death was something so compassionate and simple, it’s kind of shocking it doesn’t happen at more hospitals.

“It was a huge blessing to say the least,” Robieson says. “There’s no other to describe it.”

The nurses who attended to Christian at Hinsdale Hospital in Hinsdale, Ill. used some kind of plaster compound to make an imprint of the baby’s tiny hands and feet.

It’s a practice the hospital does often; a tiny shred of consolation for parents who have just suffered the worst blow a mother and father can.

This family had already been through so much. They had already lost so much. This was something I knew I could do to help. And I was honored to do it.” —Srdjan Urosev

“The material wasn’t heavy duty. It reminded me of, like, a dental cast,” Robieson says.  “The nurses cast his hands and feet into a heart pattern. It was just amazing. But at the same time, it was fragile. All it would take is a drop and it’s gone forever. That was a really scary thought.”

So, with their fragile reminder of Christian, the Robiesons looked for ways to preserve their memento.

“You know, I’ve heard of people taking their children’s first shoes and dipping them in bronze,” Robieson says. “That way they can keep them forever. So I thought about going that route.”

Robieson reached out to Bella Cosa Jewelers in Chicago, but the company’s goldsmith balked at bronzing the precious casting. Instead, he contacted Urosev.

“The tech behind 3D scanning and 3D printing has just improved so much over the past decade,” Urosev says. “And we thought maybe we could help.”

Urosev has been a pioneer in the 3D scanning field, leading eLUXE 3D to the forefront of scanning, archiving and printing, and with jewelry in particular.

He can take a piece of jewelry, scan it into a CAD-like computer program that mimics exact contours down to microns (think fractions of hairs). Then, with a perfect computerized copy, he can archive the piece for posterity and even print an exact three-dimensional copy.

So when Urosev heard about Robieson’s dilemma, he was happy to help.

“We knew we could make a copy for him,” Urosev says. “We knew we could scan it, save it and have a digital copy forever. This family had already been through so much. They had already lost so much. This was something I knew I could do to help. And I was honored to do it.”

But it didn’t stop with Robieson leaving Urosev’s Metro Detroit office with a CAD file on a zip drive.

“They made us a brand new cast,” Robieson said. “Srdjan printed us an identical copy, made of a much sturdier material. It was just so amazing. To have something so precious and know that it’s not ever going to break. To know you aren’t going to have to tiptoe around with it or worry that it won’t survive a family move. It was perfect.”

Urosev even went a step further. He scaled down the scan model, using a state-of-the art 3D printer, and printed up a replica of the imprint of Christian’s hands and feet. This data can be cast in any metal. Kristina chose silver. The size was perfect for her to wear around her neck as a pendant.

Joseph Molfese, owner of Bella Cosa Jewelers, gave the Robiesons suggestions on the finishes of the piece, leaving the hands and feet as a smooth polish and the rest a brushed finish to highlight the hands and feet as the focal point.

“I don’t currently have any kids,” Urosev says. “So it’s hard for me to relate. I do, though, have some very close friends who lost a child, so I saw firsthand how devastating it can be. I’ve never experienced it directly, and I can’t imagine the kind of pain. It’s hard to hold back the emotion when you really start to think about it. So, when I realized there might be something I could do to help them, even just a little, tiny bit, I jumped at the chance.”

Urosev said despite all of his time and experience in the tech field, he had never been involved in something like this.

“I’ve been in tech for such a long time,” he says. “There is always this great sense of energy and of innovation. But rarely do you encounter a situation with this kind of humanity.”

Urosev said he sees a bright future with this kind of scanning and printing technology.

“Can you imagine a world where we can replicate our precious heirlooms,” he says. “Maybe you have an old piece of family jewelry that is starting to get too fragile for everyday use. We can print an exact copy. The copy could be worn, while the original could be put into storage. Or if your grandmother has a family ring, and two or more granddaughters. We can make identical rings.”

“This technology could streamline work for jewelers and artists as well.”

For now though, he’s happy in knowing that the Robiesons are moving forward and healing.

In 2015, Kristina gave birth to a baby boy they named Wyatt.

“You never really get over it,” Jeremy says. “Some days I’ll be holding Wyatt and, for good or bad, that loss is still there. I think, ‘Is this how Christian would have felt?’ We’re a Christian family believe that and God drew these connections for us in a special way that only He can. God laid down a path for us to help cope. It’s a small token, we are so thankful for Srdjan, his willingness to help and his generosity. We’ve been so blessed in the midst of our hardship.”

And Urosev said that was happy, and even a bit emotional to help the Robiesons.

“It didn’t sink in until much later,” Urosev said. “Several months later they sent me a letter to thank me. And that’s when it hit me, that’s when it got emotional. You know, I still get a little teary-eyed when I read it even now.”

The letter wasn’t the only thing the Robiesons sent. They also sent him a $50 gift card to show their appreciation. After Urosev politely declined any sort of compensation, the couple figured he’d be unable to turn down a gift if they sent it through the mail.

And Urosev did accept the gift card. Then he used it to buy a frame for the Robiesons’ letter, to remind him the good this technology can do. It’s displayed prominently in his office.

“It’s not just about Jeremy and Kristina, but it’s about helping people. This is a kind of technology that can really help. Maybe it’s in outwardly small ways, but it helps. It’s the kind of stuff that you just really love to be a part of.”

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A 3D rendering of the Robieson’s pendant.

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A prototype of the Robieson’s pendant.

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Kristina Robieson holds a pendant made by Srdjan Urosev and eLUXE 3D. The piece was printed to honor the Robieson’s son , Christian, who was stillborn.