Jun 12, 2017 | By Tess

Designers from the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) in Huddersfield, England have 3D printed two life-sized skulls based on a fellow colleague’s MRI scan. The 3D printed skulls were made using SLS and FDM 3D printing technologies and are meant to demonstrate how additive manufacturing has impacted the medical industry.

3M BIC was established in order to facilitate the connections between business and academia with the goal of business growth and innovation. Its latest project, the 3D printed skulls, challenged its in-house designers to use 3D design software and printing to repair a damaged skull.

The skull model was based on an MRI taken of a 3M BIC worker, with the design team saying it used a free software called OsiriX to convert the MRI scans raw data into a 3D model of the skull. For the model, the designers focused on the skull’s bone density.

With the 3D model in front of them, the designers went ahead and designed implants to correct or even out inconsistencies on the digital skull’s surface. This was achieved using a combination of  ZBrush and 3DS Max, the latter of which was used to model the implants, while ZBrush was used to integrate them into the original skull model.

“Our Skull project is not only a great showcase for 3D printing, but also underlines how 3D design can be incorporated into the medical industry,” said Dr Michael Wilson. “If doctors can view MRI scan data more freely in 3D it would give them a greater understanding of a patient’s condition and refine the process of reconstructive surgery.”

“If someone fractures their skull, for example, then an MRI scan can be used and translated into 3D. A copy of the undamaged side of the skull can be printed in titanium and then attached to repair the damage caused in the patient’s skull.”

With the 3D model of the skull ready to go, the 3M BIC team 3D printed two versions of the cranial structure. The first was 3D printed using a selective laser sintering (SLS) system (the EOS p110), which uses a laser to sinter layers of nylon-based powder. The second skull was made using an FDM 3D printer (specifically, MakerBot’s latest generation of printer) and was made from PLA.

As makers can imagine, the SLS version of the skull was of a higher quality than the FDM one, with higher degree of detail. The 3M BIC team did say, however, that the FDM 3D printed skull, which took more than 50 hours to print, “highlights the advancement and future possibilities of FDM printers.”

While the skulls were printed by 3M BIC to showcase 3D technologies within the medical field, additive manufacturing is of course already being used around the globe to advance and improve on implants and other medical devices.

The design team says it is currently investigating other MRI scans for potential 3D printing projects, including the shoulder and wrist of a retired rugby player. The 3D model of the skull, for its part, has also been converted for use in virtual reality applications.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


James wrote at 6/15/2017 9:55:36 PM:

You are comparing a $2,000 Makerbot printer to a $200,000 EOS. Not really apples to apples comparison. Speed gets increased when you go to the better Stratasys FDM printers.

Nikita wrote at 6/14/2017 9:01:06 AM:

It's more like a CT scan than an MRI scan.

All Things 3D wrote at 6/14/2017 7:29:38 AM:

OsiriX is not a free program ($699) as stated in the article and it also only available for the Mac

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive