July 14, 2014

Researchers from Monash University in Australia has developed and 3D printed a unique kit of anatomical body parts which can be used in medical education and training, especially in countries where cadaver use is problematical.

The '3D Printed Anatomy Series' includes all the major parts of the body required to teach anatomy of the limbs, chest, abdomen, head and neck. It is thought to be the first commercially available resource of its kind.

The series are made by scanning real anatomical specimens with either a CT or a surface laser scanner, which are then 3D printed either in a plaster-like powder or in plastic. The result is high-resolution, accurate colour reproductions which "looks just like the real thing".

"Radiographic imaging, such as CT, is a really sophisticated means of capturing information in very thin layers, almost like the pages of a book." said Professor Paul McMenamin, Director of the University's Centre for Human Anatomy Education.

"By taking this data and making a 3D rendered model we can then colour that model and convert that to a file format that the 3D printer uses to recreate, layer by layer, a three-dimensional body part to scale."

Professor McMenamin said the kit, which is set to go on sale later this year, could have particular impact in developing countries where cadavers aren't readily available, or are prohibited for cultural or religious reasons.

"For centuries cadavers bequested to medical schools have been used to teach students about human anatomy, a practice that continues today. However many medical schools report either a shortage of cadavers, or find their handling and storage too expensive as a result of strict regulations governing where cadavers can be dissected," he said.

"Without the ability to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, it's incredibly hard for students to understand human anatomy."

"Even when cadavers are available, they're often in short supply, are expensive and they can smell a bit unpleasant because of the embalming process. As a result some people don't feel that comfortable working with them," Professor McMenamin said.

"Our 3D printed series can be produced quickly and easily, and unlike cadavers they won't deteriorate – so they are a cost-effective option too."

The research team is currently negotiating with potential commercial partners.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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