Jan 29, 2016 | By Alec

As regular readers doubtlessly know, 3D printed surgical models are becoming increasingly popular in academic hospitals throughout the world. Using medical data from MRI and CT scans, surgeons create intricate 3D printed replicas of broken bones and other medical complications, which help them to prepare for surgery. This fantastic procedure has already saved numerous lives, but as maker Andrew Sink reminds us, isn’t confined to hospitals. Using data from his own brain MRI, he has 3D printed a huge intricate replica of his own brain, and shows just how easy that is.

Andrew Sink, incidentally, made headlines before in the 3D printing community for programming his 3D printer to play the Jurassic Park theme. However, the Richmond, Virginia-based maker has previously shared a variety of cool 3D printing projects on his blog as well. So when needed to go in for a brain MRI, he quickly found a way to use it for a new project. “Living in the future is pretty cool, right? After scheduling my brain MRI, I was told that I would be given a CD with a copy of all of the data collected from the procedure,” he writes. “I don’t really know how to interpret it, but I figured I’d be able to at least make a 3D printed model out of it.”

If you’ve ever had to undergo an MRI scan yourself, you’ll know that it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. “The technician informed me the machine I would be scanned with was the Siemens Magnetom Sonata. The process took about an hour, most of which was spent in the tube. I had my eyes closed for the duration; I’ve simply read too much Poe to even think about trying to look around while stuck in that tube,” he remembers. However, the great thing is that you can get all your scans on a CD-ROM, which you can obviously use for other medical purposes or for nefarious 3D printing plans.

Andrew did the latter, and was kind enough to walk others through the process. "The CD contained about a dozen different scans of my brain. Each scan was focused on a different part of my brain, so each was missing a different part. Some were missing large pieces of the sides, some were missing the top, etc. I picked the best scan of the group, which was the only one that had all of the brain captured,” he explains. Andrew prepared that model for 3D printing using Blender, netfabb and OsiriX software, though Blender can be replaced with any CAD software you like. OsiriX is Apple-only, but alternatives are available.

As Andrew explains, it took a while to get the model suited for 3D printing. “The model still requires a good bit of adjusting in OsiriX, as you want to isolate the brain while removing the skull, skin, and eyes. Easier said than done; this process took me about an hour,” he says. “Once finished, I exported the .STL and checked it in NetFabb. Everything looked solid, so it was time to start the clean-up.” The results were then cleaned up in Blender, as some muscle and skull parts, as well as the eyes, were still visible.

After finishing clean up, he noticed a few holes in the bottom of the brain model, so Andrew convinced 3D illustrator and artist Cindy Raggo to fill those up for him and get it prepped for 3D printing. Those results were sent to his UP! Box 3D printer, which worked at medium-low resolution (or 0.2 mm). Being quite a huge model, this still took about 49 hours to 3D print. That’s all there is to it, and the results are amazing. So if you happen to need to go in for an MRI scan, be sure to ask for a free copy of the data. For if you’re going to exhibit a 3D print, it might as well be of the most important organ in your own body.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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