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A University of Notre Dame freshman (!) has, with a little help, figured out a way to use CT scans to create three-dimensional models of both bones and soft tissue using a 3-D printer.

How cool is that?

W. Matthew Leevy, PhD, director of biological imaging at the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility, agreed:

It’s a very clever idea. He did a lot of it independently. He figured out how to convert the tomographic data to a surface map for editing and subsequent 3-D printing.”

Dr. Leevy was quoted in a Notre Dame news release.

The then-freshman, Evan Doney, initiated the project last spring. As a result, he is lead author of an open-access article about the technique published March 22 in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Actually, the article outlines three different techniques for different printer options. From lowest to highest resolution, they were the inexpensive MakerBot Replicator (list price $1,999; printing a partial rat skeleton with lungs used about $3.50 in plastic), the third-party printing service Shapeways (which charged $41.61 for the rat skeleton with lungs), and the high-grade but expensive ProJet HD 3000 (now discontinued but listed at $80,000; labor and materials at a Notre Dame facility cost about $30).

Each requires a different journey through various applications to convert the CT scans into something the printer can replicate. But replicate it they do. The researchers ran a living rat (sedated) and a rabbit skull through an Albira scanner and created impressively accurate and detailed plastic versions of each.

“With proper data collection, surface rendering, and stereolithographic editing, it is now possible and inexpensive to rapidly produce detailed skeletal and soft tissue structures from X-ray CT data,” the article’s abstract summarizes.

Educational uses for inexpensive anatomical models are obvious. Such models could also be a boon to surgeons. “Not only can we print bone structure,” Dr. Leevy said, “but we’re starting to collect patient data and print out the anatomical structure of patients with different disease states to aid doctors in surgical preparation.”

Again, how cool is that? Especially if you’re the patient.

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Accused of overbilling for CT scans, 27 Canadian radiologists blame an unclear billing code and ask that the complaint be withdrawn. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: Computed Body Tomography: The Cutting Edge

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One Response to “If You Can Scan It In CT, You Can Print It In 3-D”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Scans, 3-D Printer Help Tiny Heart Patients on May 15th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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