June 19, 2014

3D printed models and virtual surgical planning technologies give surgeons a powerful new tool explore and repair the damage during the most challenging surgeries. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange, a public website that enables users to share, download and edit 3D print files which can be used to print custom laboratory equipment and models of bacteria and human anatomy.

"We created this website as kind of a way to have a YouTube-like experience, but instead of exchanging and sharing and commenting on and remixing videos, instead we are doing all of those same things with 3D-print files," said Darrell Hurt, a researchers at the Office of Cyber Infrastructure and Computational Biology, NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases).

Cartoon of HIV model printed on a ZCorp 510 3D printer.

NIH uses 3D printing, or the creation of a physical object from a digital model, to study viruses, repair and enhance lab apparatus, and help plan medical procedures.

"3D printing is helping to advance science at NIAID and beyond," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The ability to design and print tangible models of pathogens, for example, can give researchers a fresh perspective on the diseases they study and open new and promising lines of investigation."

"A researcher who's been using a computer model of this for 15 years learns something as soon as they put their hands on a real, tangible model," Hurt said.

Hemagglutinin Model printed on a ZCorp 510.

The 3D Print Exchange makes these types of files freely available, along with video tutorials for new users and a discussion forum to promote collaboration. The site also features tools that convert scientific and clinical data into ready-to-print 3D files.

"We want this to be a place where people from all different walks of life can come together and download and share," Hurt said. "Who knows what some kid somewhere might come up with in using some of the 3D-modeling software, and then share that model out, and someone half a world away may learn something."

Posted in 3D Design

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