Dec 19, 2016 | By Tess

A viscerally realistic 3D printed heart model for children could soon be mass produced in Japan. Made using an organ modeling system and inkjet 3D printing technology, the realistic heart models were developed by Japan’s National Center for Circulatory Organs Disease Research Center, Japanese 3D printing company crossEffect, the Minister of Pediatric Circulation, Screen Holdings, and chemical company Kyoeisha. The 3D printed heart models could soon be used for doctor training and for pre-surgical planning for children.

This is not the first time that Japan’s National Center for Circulatory Organs Disease Research has used 3D printing to create patient-specific heart models, though the integration of inkjet 3D printing technologies has changed the game in a significant way. Previously, the researchers created the models by first creating a 3D printable model of the patient’s heart based off their CT scans. Next, the heart was 3D printed from a rigid resin using a light-curing 3D printer. The hard plastic heart model was then cast in a vacuum mold to create an internal organ model. From there, a heart model with internal vascular structure and lateral muscles was obtained.

3D printed heart models using conventional method

If the process mentioned above sounds complicated, that’s because it is, and the production time to create one of the heart models with this method requires at least 4 to 5 days. Not only does this raise risks for children who need heart surgery, but it also makes it incredibly difficult to adopt on a large scale. Tadashi Takeuchi, a representative of crossEffect, explained: “For children, the timing of surgery is very important. For patients that need surgery today, tomorrow and this week, they can not wait 5 days for the completion of the model.”

In addition to the time factor, the original process was quite expensive, as it required the manufacturing of a separate mold. Takeuchi reckons that it cost several hundred thousand Yen to make the separate molds for the heart models. Now, however, by using inkjet 3D printing technology, the need for the separate mold has been removed, and both the time and cost of creating the heart models are expected to be greatly reduced.

The new method, which involves data processing (from the CT scans), 3D modeling, and 3D printing, can reportedly take as little as 1 to 2 days. The cost, for its part, is reportedly reduced by half according to Screen Holdings Managing Director CTO Tanzu Shoichi.

The heart modeling process, which was presented by the National Center for Circulatory Organs Disease Research Center last week, involves first extracting data from CT scans using a visceral organ modeling system (developed by crossEffect). With the data, Screen Holdings can then 3D print the heart model using its inkjet 3D printers, using a special resin mold agent and proppant, a resin used for the covered parts of the organ. Both materials have been supplied by Kyoeisha Chemical.

The 3D printed heart models, which are characterized by a soft, malleable texture, are still being worked on to make them as texturally accurate as possible. The materials company is reportedly improving their resins with input from doctors. Ultimately, the goal is to adapt the accurate heart models for mass production within the next year. The first step of this will be having the heart models approved for use as pediatric cardiac replicas which can be covered by insurance. Down the line, the 3D printed replicas will also be adapted for adults with heart disease and aortic heart disease.

As the research center explains, it has focused the heart models for the diagnosis and treatment of children’s heart disease for a number of reasons. As Mr. Shiraishi, the Minister of Pediatric Circulation of the perinatal circulatory organs, notes, “The child’s heart is small and complex. It is difficult to grasp the surgical technique because the shape is odd.” The hope is that the 3D printed heart models will help doctors to prepare more carefully for surgeries, which will result in shorter operation times and, in turn, shorter ischemic times (the time during the operation where the heart is stopped). Shorter ischemic times can be crucial in terms of lessening the overall risk of the surgery.

In addition to pre-surgical simulations, the visceral 3D printed heart model could also be useful as a training tool for young doctors, helping them to not only visualize what a child’s heart looks like, but also how touching and operating on one feels like.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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