Apr 18, 2017 | By Benedict
Engineers at GE Healthcare are working towards a future in which 3D printed medical models can be made “with the click of a button.” The company is currently exploring whether it could send CT scan data straight to a 3D printer, cutting out several intermediate conversion stages.
Multi-material 3D printed heart made by GE Healthcare
GE has made no secret of its desire to become a key figure in the 3D printing industry. From the high-profile acquisition of Arcam and Concept Laser to the creation of dedicated 3D printing unit GE Additive, the Boston-headquartered corporation is pulling out all the stops in order to capitalize on the 3D printing explosion of the last decade.
One area in which GE is already well equipped for 3D printing success is healthcare, where subsidiary GE Healthcare is already a specialist in areas such as medical imaging and information technologies. According to a recent article in GE Reports, the corporation’s daily news hub, GE Healthcare is looking at ways in which it can pair its advanced computer tomography (CT) scanning equipment with new 3D printing technologies to deliver next-generation healthcare solutions for doctors and patients.
3D printed liver made by GE Healthcare
Central to GE Healthcare’s new plan is the growing popularity of the 3D printed medical model. As regular 3Ders readers will have noticed by now, 3D printing is now frequently used by medical professionals to fabricate lifelike 3D printed replicas of a patient’s organs. Of course, 3D printing has many other uses in healthcare, but these models are probably the most common application of the technology in a medical context.
These 3D printed medical models can be helpful in a number of ways. For one, they can be used to show a patient what exactly is wrong with their heart, liver, or whatever body part is causing them trouble. But they can also help out the doctors themselves. Surgeons, for example, can use such models as “practice” organs when preparing for an operation, feeling the model in their hands and getting a literal “feel” for where they will need to make incisions.
GE Healthcare’s new 3D printing plan, according to chief engineer Jimmie Beacham, is to develop a system in which 3D printed models can be made immediately after a CT scan is made. “Today, when people print organs, it can take anywhere from a week to three weeks to manipulate the data,” Beacham says. “We want to do it with a click of a button.”
3D printed aortic tree made from CT scan data
Unlike some newer medical 3D printing companies, GE already has the scanning part of the operation covered. GE says its Revolution CT scanner is capable of generating and transmitting a chunk of data “equivalent to 6,000 Netflix movies” in just one second. At present, this data invariably ends up on a 2D screen, but the company is working on a method to turn the incredibly precise information in a 3D printable file, skipping the sometimes laborious manual process of turning the raw data into a 3D printable file. Excitingly, Beacham says his team has already had success 3D printing “organs like the liver and the lung.”
In what will be seen as exciting news for both the healthcare and 3D printing industries, GE Healthcare is currently working with GE Additive, the corporation’s 3D printing business unit, to see if it can develop what Beacham calls a “custom machine that prints organs from the files that we derive from our software.” Although 3D printed medical models are already common, an all-in-one CT scanning and 3D printing system from GE would surely raise the bar for such technology.
3D printed foot shows GE stepping up its healthcare game
Beacham added that the 3D printed models currently being made by GE Healthcare are being well received by healthcare professionals—and even more so by the patients they are treating. “I think as people get more informed about health, they will want to be a bigger part of the solution,” the engineer says. “Helping them see the problem clearly will build more trust between the doctor and the patient. It translates into quicker action.”
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Tomm wrote at 4/19/2017 10:51:58 AM:
Wow! So really cool creative. 3D technology is changing the world.