Dear Community Members,
After many months of work, we are happy to announce the addition of a feature that will allow you to sell medical models you have designed on Embodi3D.com. While we always have encouraged our members to consider allowing their medical STL files to be downloaded for free, we understand that when a ton of time is invested in creating a valuable and high-quality model, it is reasonable to ask for something in return. Now Embodi3D members have two options: 1) You can share your medical models for free, or 2) you can charge for them. We hope these two options encourage more sharing and file uploads. The more models available, the more it helps the medical 3D printing community.
For more details on how to sell your medical masterpieces on Embodi3D, go to the selling page.
Thanks, and happy 3D printing!
Please note the democratiz3D service was previously named "Imag3D"
In this tutorial you will learn how to quickly and easily make 3D printable bone models from medical CT scans using the free online service democratiz3D®. The method described here requires no prior knowledge of medical imaging or 3D printing software. Creation of your first model can be completed in as little as 10 minutes.
You can download the files used in this tutorial by clicking on this link. You must have a free Embodi3D member account to do so. If you don't have an account, registration is free and takes a minute. It is worth the time to register so you can follow along with the tutorial and use the democratiz3D service.
>> DOWNLOAD TUTORIAL FILES AND FOLLOW ALONG <<
Both video and written tutorials are included in this page.
Before we start you'll need to have a copy of a CT scan. If you are interested in 3D printing your own CT scan, you can go to the radiology department of the hospital or clinic that did the scan and ask for the scan to be put on a CD or DVD for you. Figures 1 and 2 show the radiology department at my hospital, called Image Management, and the CDs that they give out. Most radiology departments will have you sign a written release and give you a CD or DVD for free or with a small processing fee. If you are a doctor or other healthcare provider and want to 3D print a model for a patient, the radiology department can also help you. There are multiple online repositories of anonymized CT scans for research that are also available.
Figure 1: The radiology department window at my hospital.
Figure 2: An example of what a DVD containing a CT scan looks like. This looks like a standard CD or DVD.
Step 1: Register for an Embodi3D account
If you haven't already done so, you'll need to register for an embodi3d account. Registration is free and only takes a minute. Once you are registered you'll receive a confirmatory email that verifies you are the owner of the registered email account. Click the link in the email to activate your account. The democratiz3D service will use this email account to send you notifications when your files are ready for download.
Step 2: Create an NRRD file with Slicer
If you haven't already done so, go to slicer.org and download Slicer for your operating system. Slicer is a free software program for medical imaging research. It also has the ability to save medical imaging scans in a variety of formats, which is what we will use it for in this tutorial.
Next, launch Slicer. Insert your CD or DVD containing the CT scan into your computer and open the CD with File Explorer or equivalent file browsing application for your operating system. You should find a folder that contains numerous DICOM files in it, as shown in Figure 3. Drag-and-drop the entire DICOM folder onto the Slicer welcome page, as shown in Figure 4. Click OK when asked to load the study into the DICOM database. Click Copy when asked if you want to copy the images into the local database directory.
Figure 3: A typical DICOM data set contains numerous individual DICOM files.
Figure 4: Dragging and dropping the DICOM folder onto the Slicer application. This will load the CT scan.
Once Slicer has finished loading the study, click the save icon in the upper left-hand corner as shown in Figure 5. One of the files in the list will be of type NRRD. make sure that this file is checked and all other files are unchecked. click on the directory button for the NRRD file and select an appropriate directory to save the file. then click Save, as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 5: The Save button
Figure 6: The Save File box
The NRRD file is much better for uploading then DICOM. Instead of having multiple files in a DICOM data set, the NRRD file encapsulates the entire study in a single file. Also, identifiable patient information is removed from the NRRD file. The file is thus anonymized. This is important when sending information over the Internet because we do not want identifiable patient information transmitted.
Step 3: Upload the NRRD file to Embodi3D
Now go to www.embodi3d.com, click on the democratiz3D navigation menu and select Launch App, as shown in Figure 7. Drag and drop your NRRD file where indicated. While NRRD file is uploading, fill in the "File Name" and "About This File" fields, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 7: Launching the democratiz3D application
Figure 8: Uploading the NRRD file and entering basic information
Figure 9: Basic information fields about your uploaded NRRD file
Next, turn on democratiz3D Processing by selecting the slider under democratiz3D Processing. Make sure the operation CT NRRD to Bone STL is selected. Leave the default threshold of 150 in place. Choose an appropriate quality. Low quality produces small files quickly but the output resolution is low. Medium quality is good for most applications and produces a relatively good file that is not too large. High quality takes the longest to process and produces large output files. Bear in mind that if you upload a low quality NRRD file don't expect the high quality setting to produce a stellar bone model. Medium quality is good enough for most applications.
If you wish, you have the option to specify whether you want your output file to be Private or Shared. If you're not sure, click Private. You can always change the visibility of the file later. If you're happy with your settings, click Save & Submit Files. This is shown in Figure 10.
Figure 10: Entering the democratiz3D Processing parameters.
Step 4: Review Your Completed Bone Model
After about 10 to 20 minutes you should receive an email informing you that your file is ready for download. The actual processing time may vary depending on the size and complexity of the file and the load on the processing servers. Click on the link within the email. If you are already on the embodied site, you can access your file by going to your profile. Click your account in the upper right-hand corner and select Profile, as shown in Figure 11.
Figure 11: Finding your profile.
Your processed file will have the same name as the uploaded NRRD file, except it will end in "– processed". Renders of your new 3D model will be automatically generated within about 6 to 10 minutes. From your new model page you can click "Download this file" to download. If you wish to share your file with the community, you can toggle the privacy setting by clicking Privacy in the lower right-hand corner. You can edit your file or move it from one category to another under the File Actions button on the lower left. These are shown in Figure 12.
Figure 12: Downloading, sharing, and editing your new 3D printable model.
If you wish to sell your new file, you can change your selling settings under File Actions, Edit Details. Set the file type to be Paid, and specify a price. Please note that your file must be shared in order for other people to see it. This is shown in Figure 13. If you are going to sell your file, be sure you select General Paid File License from the License Type field, or specify your own customized license. For more information about selling files, click here.
Figure 13: Making your new file available for sale on the Embodi3D marketplace.
That's it! Now you can create your own 3D printable bone models in minutes for free and share or sell them with the click of a button.If you want to download the STL file created in this tutorial, you can download it here. Happy 3D printing!
In this tutorial we will learn how to use the free medical imaging conversion service on embodi3D.com to create detailed anatomic muscle and skin 3D printable models in STL file format from medical CT scans. Muscle models show the detailed musculature by subtracting away the skin and fat. Even when created from a scan of an obese person, the model looks like it comes from a bodybuilder, Figure 1A. Skin models show an exact replica of the skin surface. The finest details are captured, including wrinkles and veins underneath the skin. Hair however is not captured in a CT scan and thus the model does not have any hair, Figure 1B.
Figure 1A (left): A muscle 3D printable model. Figure 1B (right): A skin 3D printable model
These models can be used for a variety of purposes such as medical and scientific education and research. Additionally, the skin models can be used to re-create a person's likeness in 3D from a medical scan. If you have had a CT scan of the head, you can create a lifelike replica of your head. You can create replicas of your friends, family, or even pets if they have had a medical CT scan. Alternatively, if you have a loved one who passed away but had a CT scan prior to death, you can use the scan to re-create an exact replica of their face. Even scans that are years old can be used for this purpose. Some people may consider this to be a little creepy, so if you are considering doing this think carefully first.
Before proceeding please register for an embodi3D.com account if you haven't already. You will need an account to use the service.
It is highly recommended that you download the associated file pack for this tutorial so that you can follow along with the exact same files that are used in this tutorial.
>> DOWNLOAD THE FREE FILE PACK BY CLICKING HERE <<
If you are interested in learning how to use the free embodi3D.com service, see my prior tutorials on creating bone models, processing multiple models simultaneously, and sharing and selling your models on the embodi3D.com website.
If you are interested in converting your own CT scan or that of a friend or family member, you can go to the radiology department of the hospital or clinic that did the scan and ask for the scan to be put on a CD or DVD for you. Figure 2 shows the radiology department at my hospital, called Image Management, and the CDs that they give out. Most radiology departments will have you sign a written release and give you a CD or DVD for free or with a small processing fee. If you are a doctor or other healthcare provider and want to 3D print a model for a patient, the radiology department can also help you. There are multiple online repositories of anonymized CT scans for research that are also available. If you have downloaded the file pack for this tutorial, example CT scans are included
Figure 2A, the Image Management (radiology) department at my hospital, where you can pick up a DVD of your CT scan as shown in Figure 2B (right). My hospital does this for free, but some may charge a trivial fee.
PART 1: Creating a Muscle STL model from NRRD File
Before we begin please bear in mind that this process only works for CT scan images. It will not work for MRI images. Before proceeding please check that the scan you wish to convert is a CT (CAT) scan!
Step 1: Convert Your CT scan to an Anonymized NRRD File with 3D Slicer
Open 3D Slicer. If you don't have the software program you can download it for free from slicer.org. Once Slicer has opened, take the folder from the download pack that is called STS_004. This folder contains anonymized DICOM images from a CT scan of the legs of a 24-year-old woman who had a muscle tumor. Drag and drop the entire folder onto the Slicer window, as shown in Figure 3. Slicer will ask you if you want to load the images into the DICOM database. Click OK. Slicer will also ask you if it should copy the images into the database, click Copy. Slicer will take about one minute to load the scanned.
Figure 3: Drag-and-drop the STS_004 DICOM folder from the file pack onto the Slicer window
Next, load the scan into the active wor king area in slicer. If the DICOM browser is not open, click on the Show DICOM browser button, as shown in Figure 4. Click on the STS_004 patient and series, and click the Load button, as shown in Figure 4. The leg CT scan will now load into the active seen within Slicer, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 4: Open the DICOM browser and load the study into the active seen
Figure 5: The leg CT scan is shown in the active seen
Step 2: Trim the Scan so that only the Right Thigh is included.
Click on the Volume Rendering module from the Modules drop-down menu as shown in Figure 6. Turn on volume rendering by clicking on the eyeball button, as shown in Figure 7. Then, center the model in the 3D pane by clicking on the crosshairs button, Figure 7. If you don't have the same window layout as shown in Figure 7, you can correct this by clicking on the Four-Up window layout from the window layout drop-down menu, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 6: Turn on the volume rendering module
Figure 7: Center the rendered volume.
Figure 8: Make sure you are in the Four-Up window layout
Next we are going to crop the volume so that we exclude everything other than the right knee and thigh. From the modules menu, select All Modules, Crop Volume, as shown in Figure 9. Turn on ROI visibility by clicking on the eyeball button, as shown in Figure 10. Then, move the region of interest box so that it only encapsulates the right thigh, as shown in Figure 10. You can adjust the size of the box by grabbing on the colored circular handles and moving the sides of the box as needed.
Figure 9: The Crop Volume module.
Figure 10: Turning on and adjusting the crop volume ROI (Region Of Interest)
Once the crop volume ROI is adjusted to the area that you want, perform the crop by clicking on the Crop button, Figure 11.
Figure 11: the Crop button.
The new, smaller volume that encompasses the right fight and knee has been assigned a cryptic name. The entire scan had a name of "2: CT IMAGES – RESEARCH," and the new thigh volume has a name "2: CT IMAGES-RESEARCH-subvolume-scale_1." That's a mouthful and I want to rename it to something more descriptive. I'm going to select the Volumes module, and then select the "2: CT IMAGES-RESEARCH-subvolume-scale_1" from the Active Volume drop-down menu. Then, from the same drop-down menu I'm going to select "Rename Current Volume". Type in whatever name you want. In this case I'm choosing "right thigh."
Figure 12: Renaming the newly cropped volume.
Step 3: Save the right thigh volume as an anonymized NRRD file.
Click on the Save button in the upper left-hand corner. The save window is then shown. All the checkboxes on the left except for the one that corresponds to the right by. Make sure the file format for this line says NRRD (.nrrd). Make sure you specify the proper directory you want the file to be saved as. When you are satisfied click on save. This is demonstrated in Figure 13. In the specified directory you should see a called right thigh.nrrd.
Figure 13: The save file options.
Step 4: Upload the NRRD file to embodi3D.com
Make sure you are logged into your embodi3D.com account. Click on Imag3D from the nav bar, Launch App. Then drag-and-drop your NRRD file onto the upload pain, as shown in Figure 14.
Figure 14: Uploading the NRRD file to embodi3D.com.
Figure 15: File processing options.
Step 5: Download your new STL file after processing is completed.
In about 5 to 15 minutes you should receive an email that says your file has finished processing and is ready to download. Follow the link in the email or access the new file via your profile on the embodi3D.com website. Your newly created STL file should have several rendered thumbnails associated with it on its download page. If you want to download the file click on the Download button, as shown in Figure 16.
Figure 16: the download page for your new muscle STL file
I opened the file in AutoDesk MeshMixer to have another look at it, and it looks terrific, as shown in Figure 17. This file is ready to 3D print!
Figure 17: The final 3D printable muscle model.
PART 2: Creating a Skin Model STL File Ready for 3D Printing
Creating a skin model is essentially identical to creating the muscle model, except instead of choosing the CT NRRD to Muscle STL on the embodi3D.com service, we choose CT NRRD to Skin STL.
Step 1: Load DICOM image set into Slicer
Launch Slicer. From the tutorial file pack drag and drop the MANIX folder onto the Slicer window to load this head and neck CT scan data set. This is shown in Figure 18.
Figure 18: Loading the head and neck CT scan into Slicer. It may take a minute or two to load. From the DICOM browser, click on the ANGIO CT series as shown in Figure 19.
Figure 19: Loading the ANGIO CT series from the MANIX data set
Step 2: Skip the trimming and crop volume operations
In this case we don't need to trim and crop a volume as we did with the muscle file above. We can skip Step 2.
Step 3: Save the CT scan in NRRD format.
Just as with the muscle file above, save the volume in NRRD format. Click on the save button, make sure that the checkbox for the nrrd file is selected and all other checkboxes are deselected. Specify the correct directory you want the file to be saved in, and click Save.
Step 4: Upload your NRRD file of the head to the embodi3D website.
Just as with the muscle file process as shown above, upload the head NRRD file to the embodi3D.com website. Enter in the required fields. In this case, however, under Operation choose the CT NRRD to Skin STL operation, as shown in Figure 20.
Figure 20: Selecting the CT NRRD to Skin STL file operation
Step 5: Download your new Skin STL file
After about 5 to 15 minutes, you should receive an email that says your file processing has been completed. Follow the link in the email or look for your file in the list the files you own in your profile. You should see that your skin STL file has been completed, with several rendered images, as shown in Figure 21. Go ahead and download your file. You can then check the quality of your file in Meshmixer as shown in Figure 22. In this instance everything looks great and the file is error free and ready for 3D printing.
Figure 21: The download page for your newly created 3D printable skin STL file.
Figure 22: Opening the file in Meshmixer for quality control checks. The file is error free and incredibly lifelike. It is ready for 3D printing.
Thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you use this service to create 3D printable models, please consider sharing your models with the embodi3D community. Here is a detailed tutorial that I wrote on exactly how to do this. This community is built on medical 3D makers helping each other. Please share the models that you create!
By this point, Derby is a well known character in the 3D-printing world. He became famous after getting a pair of 3D-printed legs last years so he could walk straight and sit like a regular dog. But soon it became time to design him a new pair.
3D Systems, a South Carolina-based company, created his first pair, and designed them to be close to the ground so Derby could get used to them without hurting himself falling down. Their initial plans were to upgrade him to a taller version of the original ones, but the plan didn’t work out as hoped.
They decided to design him a better option. Tara Anderson, the director of product management at 3D Systems, said the company realized that it would be better if Derby had prosthetics that had a little flexibility like a real knee would.
The company decided to use selective laser sintering (SLS) to create Derby’s new legs, instead of the multisite 3D printing technology they used the first time. SLS uses heat to fuse together small particles of material that constitute a 3D object. The manufacturing process resulted in two new prosthetics that had more bounce, but were also harder and more durable.
The legs have a figure-eight helical infinity design which perfectly fits his physical requirements. Derby can now move and play like other dogs, as if he never missed his front legs. He’s already started to run a little.
Derby, a husky dog, was born with a deformity — his front legs never fully developed. His first owners didn’t think they could provide him with the care he needed, so he was given to a dog rescue, Peace and Paws, in New Hampshire. Here Derby was lucky enough to catch the attention of Tara Anderson of 3D Systems, who decided to help him.
Before receiving prosthetics, Derby had to get by with crawling on his rear legs. He spent most of his time kneeling on his chest, which regularly got scratched and bruised.
With Derby’s new legs, he’s now completely self-sufficient (as much as a pet dog can be). His owner, Sherry Portanova, is very pleased.
“He feels like a real dog,” she said. “He’s been walking and even sitting, which he has never been able to do.”
Just another story of an amazing technology that can create made-to-scale limbs and other body parts to change the lives of people and animals alike.
Image Credits: Engadget I4U The Mirror
Dallan Jennet, a 14-year-old boy, has become the first person to receive a 3D printed nose transplant in the US.
Human nose reconstruction is a fairly common practice, but this is the first time US doctors were able to produce the body part in a way that made it fully functional.
Jennet, who is from the Marshall Islands, suffered a face disfiguration after falling from a power line when he was 9 years old. Earlier this year he received several surgeries to improve his sense of taste and smell at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Siani, in New York City.
Tal Dagan, an associate adjunct surgeon on the project, said in a Mount Sinai blog post, "The procedure is akin to a 'nose transplant' in that we were able to replace the nose with a functional implant.”
"This procedure may be a breakthrough in facial reconstruction because the patient will never have to deal with the standard issues of transplantation, such as tissue rejection or a lifetime of immunosuppressive therapies," he said.
Jennet flew to the US for his most recent therapies, though he underwent his first procedure in the Marshall Islands in early 2015. Doctors implanted expanders under the skin of his nose that remained, to prepare space for the 3D printed nose.
The surgeries were made possible by Benicia, a Canvasback Missions Inc. nonprofit based in California. The organization is known for making health care and health education available in the Pacific Islands. They paid for Jennet’s medical expenses, and for him and his mother to travel to New York for surgeries.
The surgeries conducted in the US were made possible when Dagan and Dr Grigoriy Mashkevich, assistant professor of Otolaryngology, Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Mount Sinai, in collaboration with Oxford Performance Materials Inc, a 3D printing company based in Windsor, Connecticut.
They were able to develop a unique 3D nose graft for Jennet based on the structure of his family’s noses.
The first operation in New York took 16-hours to complete, during which the doctors used a laser-based technology to perform skin analysis.
The next step involved harvesting tissues and blood vessels from Jennet’s thigh as well as reducing scar tissue before inserting the graft and reconstructed skin with the 3D implant. Four additional surgeries followed, and Jennet had several follow-up appointments throughout June and October.
All the surgeries resulted in a successful transplant. The doctors say he won’t require more reconstructive procedures in the future — the 3D-printed implant will grow as he grows.
“We believe that this procedure will allow the patient to live a happy and productive life,” said Dr. Mashkevich. “We also hope that this approach will be a viable option for others with severe facial deformities who require reconstructive surgery.”
Image Credits: Geek
3D bioprinters are able to print living tissues for medical transplants and testing to name a few. However, recreating human tissues require a combination of human cells, biogels as well as different types of bioink materials aside from the nutrients and oxygen needed by the cells to survive. Specialized 3D bioprinters do not come cheap and they can cost between $100,000 and a million dollars depending on their specifications.
With the aim of developing an affordable 3D bioprinter, inventors Jemma Redmond and Stephen Gray combined their expertise on nano-bioscience and biochemistry to create an innovative bioprinter. The result of their hard work is the Ourobotics Revolution 3D bioprinter which is a low-cost device that can print using 10 materials in the same device. The printer also has a heated enclosure to provide ambient temperature to the growing tissue.
To date, no 3D bioprinter has the ability to print 10 materials in a single bioprinted structure. However, the inventors of this bioprinter said that they can add more materials in the future. What makes the bioprinter astounding is that it can retool itself; thus it can be used from laser and UV projectors to 3D printers. It can also handle different materials like gelatin, collagen, chitosan and alginates to name a few.
With the features of this new 3D bioprinter, you can build complicated tissues, create custom pills or combine inorganic and organic materials. This 3D printer will no longer be limited to creating prosthetics, customized medical tools as well as medical models as it can be used to print live tissues for transplant.
3D printing is becoming an important feature in the field of medical science and its wide recognition in improving medical technology made it possible for many doctors all over the world to come up with innovations in treating their patients. Speaking of innovation, the Collegiate Inventors Competition encourages students to use 3D printing in redefining the way scientists use this technology.
The recent competition was attended by 14 finalist teams from all over the United States. One of the finalists that caught the attention of the judges is the group of students from the University of Pennsylvania who created the 3D printed eyelids that are driven by small motors. This invention will be implanted on patients who are unable to blink such as those suffering from dry eye disease.
To create the synthetic eyelids, the students used plastic chips with microfluidic channels to stimulate the growth of human cells. Jeongyun Seo, one of the proponents of the study, noted that they created this technology without the need for animal or human models. For now, the proponents see the need for the blinking 3D printed human lid as an accurate model that can be used in medicine, academe and even in the cosmetic industry.
Although they did not win the competition, the team was ecstatic to receive the recognition for the first organ-on-a-chip technology that they were able to develop. This innovation created a leverage in biomicroengineering thus it is possible in the future to completely remove animals as human surrogates for clinical testing.
ACL injuries are a big concern for high performance athletes — in the NFL alone, there are an average of 53 ACL injuries per year. In some cases, the injury requires surgical treatment and a lot of time off. For more severe injuries, it’s career-ending.
But the ultimate consequences of injuries of the anterior cruciate ligaments is probably about to change, with the help of a new 3D printed surgical device that helps surgeons better reconstruct partial or full ACL tears and reduce the chances of re-tearing.
The biocompatible surgical device belongs to DanaMed™ Inc. and Pathfinder™ and was created by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, an additive manufacturing service. Stratasys used Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology to build the tool.
The Pathfinder System
“Pathfinder illustrates how 3D printing is uniquely capable of enabling breakthroughs in medical technology that otherwise would not be possible,” said John Self, project engineer at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, in a press release. “And by offering DanaMed 97 percent cost savings over conventional manufacturing methods, 3D printing has demonstrated its business value in bringing complex, high-quality parts to market.”
The Pathfinder System was developed by Dr. Dana Piasecki, an orthopedic surgeon at Orthhcarolina Sports Medicine. After experimenting with different surgical strategies that could optimize graft positioning, he developed the Pathfinder ACL Guide and Guide Pins. His research found that using a tool shaped similarly to the knee was the most effective.
Dr. Piasecki and DanaMed Inc. worked to perfect the design with Fused Deposition Modeling. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, using DMLS, was able to manufacture the tool affordably, and made it possible to change the design on the fly.
An Ideal Tool
The Pathfinder tool is made with Inconel 718 material, which was optimal for mechanical requirements, biocompatability, oil resistance, and other factors. The tool underwent a series of tests before receiving registration from the FDA as a Class 1 Medical Device.
While news about the technology is just now breaking in the biomedical 3D printing community, the device is already on the market and can be used in orthopedic surgery.
For procedures involving anchoring grafts in the ACL, the Pathfinder has an impressive 95 percent success rate, meaning that it may be the perfect tool to change how successful ACL surgeries become in the long run. The technique also allows the repaired ACL to undergo the same amount of strain as a natural ACL. Other techniques are not only more complicated surgically, but increase the risk for complications and reinjury.
The Pathfinder tool is just one example of a metal part manufactured with 3D printing. Many companies have been leveraging the technology, to the point where additive metal usage is expected to almost double in the next 3 years in the US alone. As a result, Stsratasys Direct Manufacturing has made major increases in its additive metals capacity in recent months.
You can read more about DanaMed’s 3D printing projects here, and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s metal capabilities here.
Image Credits: Business Wire
For many, 3D printers seem like a fun tool to print plastic trinkets. But thanks to the unique properties of embryonic stem cells, the machines may one day be used by doctors to print micro-organs to save the lives of transplant patients.
Embryonic stem cellls come from human embryos, and have the unique ability to develop into any type of cell the body needs, including brain tissue, organ cells, or bones. That’s why they have long been a research focus for regenerative medicine aimed at repairing damaged tissues and organs in the human body.
The most common way to experiement with the cells is called differentiation, which involves dosing them with biological cues that encourage them to develop into certain types of tissues. In the beginning, the cells create spherical masses (termed embryoid bodies), similar in nature to the process of early embryo development.
Researchers have realized that a 3D environment, as opposed to a petri dish, is a much more suitable way to grow embryonic stem cells. The 3D environment creates the closest facsimile of natural cell development in the human body.
The first 3D printer designed for embryonic stem cells was developed by Organovo, and used to successfully print cells by researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. The printer works in a strikingly similar way to regular printers, by laying down layers of material. The only difference is that the 3D printer can lay layers on top of each other to create objects.
Up until this point, the 3D printers for embryonic stem cells were only able to create simple arrays or mounds of cells. But that’s all changed, as now researchers can create embryoid bodies with more structure and control.
Wei Sun, a co-author on the study and professor of mechanical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Drexel University in Philadelphia, told Live Science, "We are able to apply a 3D-printing method to grow embryoid bodies in a controlled manner to produce highly uniform blocks of embryonic stem cells."
That’s the extent of the research so far, but the advancement makes building complex tissues possible, including micro-organs.
The study offered promising results, with 90% of the cells surviving the process of printing. After printing, the cells developed into embryoid bodies and began generating healthy proteins. The cells were cultured in a hydrogel scaffold, which could be dissolved to harvest the embryoid bodies if needed.
The researchers expect that their method allows for the most control over embryoid size and structure.
Sun said, "The grown embryoid body is uniform and homogenous, and serves as [a] much better starting point for further tissue growth. It was really exciting to see that we could grow embryoid bodies in such a controlled manner."
Rui Yao, another co-author on the study and assistant professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said, "Our next step is to find out more about how we can vary the size of the embryoid body by changing the printing and structural parameters, and how varying the embryoid body size leads to 'manufacture' of different cell types.”
Image Credits: Live Science
3D printing technology is becoming mainstream in many first world countries. Unfortunately, poor countries are not able to benefit from this innovation. 3D printing is a technology that could have benefited many patients from poor countries especially those who are in need of quality prosthetics. London-based 3D printing company 3D LifePrints was able to provide 3D prosthetics to amputee patients from poor and developing countries. It was estimated that more than 15 million amputees from the poorer regions in the planet do not have access to sufficient medical care thus, this humanitarian act provides relief for a lot of patients.
To provide many amputees with 3D prosthetics, 3D LifePrints has been relying on the generosity of a pool of medical experts, technologists, social entrepreneurs, and academic researchers to raise funds and at the same time do more research on developing better 3D prosthetics.
The 3D prosthetics provided by the company are deemed very helpful for all amputees, but there are several problems encountered by the company. To date, the main supplier of prosthetics is the International Committee of the Red Cross, but they are still expensive that even ordinary people cannot afford it. The challenge by 3D LifePrints is to make prosthetics that are cheaper, more comfortable as well as more functional than they used to be.
Making 3D prosthetics available to poor patients in the third world countries can help not only improve their lives but also uplift their morality as it gives them the chance to be able to live normal lives.
Taiwanese surgeons have been using the 3D printing technology to perform complex surgical procedures in order to reduce the surgery time as well as its risks. One of the complex surgical procedures that 3D printing technology was used on is the complex orthognathic procedure which is a corrective jaw or cheek reduction surgery.
Conventional surgery is an arduous task not only for the surgeons but also to the patients. In this case, patients who undergo facial skeletal surgery may develop skeletal or even dental irregularities. Moreover, it can also lead to permanent facial paralysis if not performed properly considering that the face has a lot of delicate nerves that can accidentally be severed during the operation. However, with the use of 3D printing technology, surgeons were able to create a model of the patient’s skull so that they have more time to assess and plan their strategies before the operation.
Surgeons Jiang Hou Ren and Xie MingJi developed a technique using 3D printing technology to create an actual model of the patient’s skull by using images obtained from CT scan and X-rays. Surprisingly, the new strategy resulted to better and faster recovery time without any risks at all. 3D printing used in cosmetic surgery can help optimize the facial features of the patients and also help doctors carry out the surgical procedure more effectively. With this technology, doctors will be able to provide better healthcare to its patients. With this procedure, doctors can also perform other surgical procedures on the face to improve the aesthetics as well as the function of the patient’s facial features.
Getting from DICOM to 3D printable STL file in 3D Slicer is totally doable...but it is important to learn some fundamental skills in Slicer first if you are not familiar with the program.
This tutorial introduces the user to some basic concepts in 3D Slicer and demonstrates how to crop DICOM data in anticipation of segmentation and 3D model creation.
(Segmentation and STL file creation are explored in a companion tutorial )
This tutorial is downloadable as a PDF file,
3D Slicer Tutorial.pdf
or can be looked through in image/slide format here in the blog
3D Slicer Tutorial.pdf
If you attended my open-source 3D printing didactic talk or open-source 3D printing workshop at this year's RSNA meeting and are interested in a having a copy of my slides (I have been asked several times), or if you are not at the meeting and are just interested, you can find them here. They are an attached PDFs and links.
Manual for Open-Source 3D printing workshop (PDF)
Other resources to help you get 3D Printing the Embodi3D tutorials page: http://www.embodi3d.com/tutorials.html
Additional specific resources I mentioned in my talk:
3D printing with Osirix (Mac only)
3D printing with Slicer (Windows, Mac, Linux)
5-minute modeling with Slicer
Good luck! Contact me if you need any help.
Open source software RSNA 2015 v1.1.pdf
Researches have been made on advancing the applications of 3D bioprinting. Thru this healthcare professionals are able to address complicated injuries and illnesses.
The process of 3D bioprinting is utilized to generate tissues or living cells that help sustain growth and cell function within the printed cell or tissue. Patent on bioprinting was filed last 2003 and by 2006, it was then approved. It paved the way to more researches and encouraged hospitals and other research groups to continue experimenting on this type of process. Positive feedback are being received and it is a promising method to aid in reconstructive surgery and medical testing.
3D bioprinting started in different areas, however, Baltimore Maryland is now being seen as a hub for this type of method. This is due to a breakthrough research done at Johns Hopkins University’s Grayson Lab. Apart from that, it is also in Baltimore where you can find the world’s first 3D printing lab, called BUGSS or Baltimore Underground Science Space. It was created in 2012, by and for professional, citizen and amateur scientists and artists. This lab is their space and for them to further explore as well as learn more about the biotechnology world.
The BUGSS have three 3D bioprinters. They make use of live stem cells from plants on their experiments and researches. Ryan Hoover, an artist and faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art is responsible for taking care of the lab and maintaining on-site bioprinters.
Hoover is also using 3D bioprinters to experiment on plant material in order to create solutions wherein plant cells are able to recognize and merge into living tissues.
The experiments and researches on bioprinting done at BUGSS are positive occurrences that will encourage forward the technological world of 3D bioprinting.
From personalized replacement body parts to safer surgeries, 3D printing is revolutionizing medicine. Dr. Frank Rybicki, an American expert in the field, tells Andrew Duffy what the future holds — and why he’s set up shop in Ottawa.
A lot of people have heart problems and there is a long list of those seeking transplant because unlike other parts of the body, tissues of the heart do not repair or regenerate on its own. Fixing heart ailments often requires surgical procedures and these surgeries are often difficult and risky.
There may be an answer to these challenges thru a process known as 3D bioprinting. This method has been advocated to remedy the need for transplanting of tissues and organs. The process on 3D bioprinting makes use of self-supporting materials for regeneration of the nerves to create a 3D heart in preparation for surgery.
In a delicate process such as 3D bioprinting, it also involves some challenges when using soft tissues since these replicated tissues are not being supported by the other layers of tissues. However, a team known as the Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group discovered the use fibrin and collagen in bioprinting of coronary arteries and hearts. These groups are led by Adam Feinberg who is an associate professor of Carnegie Mellon University on Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering.
The team of Professor Adam Feinberg discovered the use of open-sourced software and hardware making 3D printers affordable on a consumer-level. The technique they are using requires printing a gel inside another gel. This approach is known as Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels or FRESH.
According to Feinberg, gels collapse just like any Jell-o; therefore they developed a technique of printing one gel inside of another gel to provide support. In this manner, they are able to position precisely the soft material as they undergo the process of 3D printing on a layer per layer basis.
In order to create the printed designs of the artery tissues and heart, MRI images are taken then through the 3D printer, layers of the second gel are injected inside the translucent support gel. When you submerge the support gel in a body-temperature medium like the human body, it melts but it leaves the bioprinted living cells undamaged and intact. After which, heart cells are integrated into that printed form to assist in the creation of the contractile muscle.
The creation of stem cells using 3D printers can bring a lot of changes in the world particularly in the field of medicine. One important application for stem cells is drug testing. Millions of laboratory animals will be spared if 3D printing can create stem cells.
Collaboration between the researchers from Tsinghua University in China and Drexel University in Philadelphia developed a way of growing embryonic stem cell structures. To create the stem cell structures, researchers used an extrusion technology to create grid-like structures that encourage the growth of the stem cells.
The cell structures were able to divide and organize into living tissues but the viability of the tissue is only up to a week. Researchers were astonished that the new embryonic cell structures were able to last for a week.
Liliang Ouyang, one of the proponents of the study, noted that the embryoid body is homogenous and can be a good starting point for tissue growth. While the common method of printing cells is using suspension method, it does not result to cell uniformity thus cells become viable for up to a few days.
The new method that the researchers developed is capable of becoming into different cell types of the body. The researchers are hopeful that the new technique can quickly proliferate into different embryoid bodies so that they can be used for tissue regeneration and drug testing on living tissues. For now, the researchers are finding ways on how they can change the size of the embryoid bodies so that they can create different cell types.
The 3D printing technology has proven itself a very useful innovation in the field of medical technology. In fact, this technology is no longer restricted to making medical models to help surgeons plan their operation but progress has been made such that construction of delicate tissues is now possible.
One of the most intriguing things that can be created with 3D printers is the knee cartilage. Scientists from the Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University were able to develop a way to create knee cartilage from a 3D bioprinter.
Led by Dr. Jingjin Qiu, the 3D printed cartilage can be used to repair the injured meniscus among patients suffering from arthritis and mechanical damage caused by injuries and sports. The cartilage of the knees protects the connecting bones of the legs against friction as well as absorbs shock when you engage in extreme activities. However, the cartilage can break down and become inflamed, thus patients are required to undergo surgery called meniscectomy to repair the meniscus.
To create the 3D printed meniscus, researchers used hydrogels but added a gel-like substance called alginate. The addition of the alginate to the hydrogel increases the viscosity of the bio-ink. The material also restricts the cartilage from pulling out under stress.
The problem with conventional meniscectomy is that the removal of the meniscus can result to the risk of osteoarthritis later in life. Moreover, transplanting knee cartilage from a donor can also bring up a host of complexities including rejection and biocompatibility issues. The development of the 3D printed meniscus removes all these complexities thus it can help many people suffering from a lot of knee problems.
Blessing Makwera is the Zimbabwean man who was the recipient of Operation Hope, a California organization that offers surgical care and procedures to individuals in developing nations. Makwera was only 15 years old when he figured in a tragic accident that left his upper and lower jaws severely disfigured due to an exploding land mine. Although he survived the accident, he had to live with his misshapen face for eight years before becoming the happy recipient of the Operation Hope.
Makwera needed several surgeries through the collaboration of Dr. Joel Berger who was a maxillofacial and oral specialist and 3D systems that was there to help in visually mapping out the surgical procedure via their Virtual Surgical Planning (VSP) services. The man behind 3D systems VPS services was Mike Rensberger.
Makwera needed a fibula free flap operation which comprises of taking vessels, tissues, and bone from the fibula (a bone in the lower leg), and then restructuring as well as re-configuring these to form jaw bones that are linked to the neck’s blood vessels. Rensberger commented that although they have experience dealing with the same surgery, but the time-sensitive operation was placing a huge challenge for the team. They only had four days to prepare before the surgery.
Eventually, Rensberger’s team was able to create two sets of maxillae and mandibles to be used as a time saving replica in the operating room and the other set as a reference point in the actual operation. The models helped the surgeons to familiarize themselves with the unique anatomy of the patient and fortunately for Makwera, all the needed jaw composition for the operation arrived on time. The surgery took 12 hours to perform and it was a success, thanks to the power of 3D printing.
This a video demonstrating the use of Mimics software to convert patient dicom images into 3D printable files. Mimics software has many great features to improve and ease workflow. Like other software programs most segmentation and exporting can be accomplished in 15 minutes.
Canadian Surgeon Dr. Ivar Mendez is the head of surgery at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Mendez reported that he always prepares before a brain surgery via the use of computer simulations. Given the fact that brain surgery is a very sensitive operation wherein it involves opening the skull and toe brain folds are inserted with electrodes. A miscalculation on the part of the surgeon can cause irreversible damage depending on the specific part of the brain involved. That’s why the meticulous doctor always studied the patient’s brain and the targets he needed to access.
Now, Dr. Mendez wanted to try out 3D printing the patient’s brain as a model instead of using computer simulations. It took 7-months and several experts from neuropsychologists, MRI specialists, radiologist, and engineers to create the first rubber prototype. However, Dr. Mendez was not satisfied with the model because it did not display the important and smaller features of the brain. Now, the team and Dr. Mendez have a more detailed and larger brain model wherein the Dr. Mendez can actually practice the surgery.
Dr. Mendez was more than satisfied with the brain replica because it mimics the consistency of an actual brain. He further elaborated on the possibilities of 3D printed medical innovations like the same principles can be applied on creating 3D brain models of patients with brain tumor, helping neurosurgeons to better grasp the extent of the effects of the tumor or lesion removal. And this is something that cannot be easily seen with the use of digital models.
Surgical transplantation procedures such as heart transplants can be very difficult to work with and this is the reason why patients have to join a long waitlist, along with other patients, in the hopes of getting a transplant. However, researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University want to improve the chances of getting a transplant early by developing a method for 3D bioprinting soft tissues.
Currently, the 3D printing technology uses materials like titanium and silicone to create flexible plastic models used only for surgical planning. Unfortunately, replicating soft tissues can be difficult until today. The research is led by associate professor Adam Feinberg and it aims to demonstrate a new method of creating synthetic hearts and arteries using natural materials like fibrin and collagen. With their years of extensive research, they were able to accomplish printing soft tissues using a consumer-level 3D printer.
The technique of creating soft tissues was called Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) which involves printing gel in gel. This allowed the researchers to position the soft materials precisely inside the gel so that they can create it layer by layer.
To create anatomically correct heart and artery tissues, researchers rely on MRI images of patients. The printer then uses a small syringe to inject the layers of the second gel inside the transparent support gel. The support gel serves as the scaffold of the soft tissues. The support gel then melts away when immersed in ambient-temperature water, thus, leaving behind the living cells intact. Now, the researchers need to perfect the next step which is to incorporate the printed tissues in vivo.
I thought I'd do a quick post on why anthropologists need 3D printed bones in case anybody's interested.
Real bones are expensive! Although we have real skeletons for teaching osteology, we are often limited to teaching the identification and examination of whole bones. For both forensic and archaeological contexts, osteologists need to be able to identify bones that are incomplete, scavenged, weathered, burned, or damaged in some other way. In such situations, the first question is whether or not the bone is human. In order to teach this advanced level of identification, we need bone fragments. We can't go around smashing bones to create the fragments, and if you're at an institution without a large archaeological collection of bones, 3D printing, especially of CT scans, can provide some fragments. Because CT scans contain internal structures (as opposed to laser scans of bones), we can digitally slice long bones to create cross-sections or cut models in ways that bone frequently fragments. We can potentially simulate trauma as well, although scans of bones with trauma or pathology would be even better.
I've recently started working with the Virtual Curation Laboratory (https://vcuarchaeolo....wordpress.com/) to 3D print bone fragments, whole bones, and bones with pathology or trauma. All of these things can be used to create "case studies" of single individuals or commingled individuals as well, and since they're plastic, we would have no problem using them outside for field exercises and excavations. Having age and/or sex is also important since higher quality 3D printed bones could be analyzed for those traits as well.
I've added some pictures from a recent conference at VCU where we presented our preliminary work and displayed a few printed bones. Some of them still have some support structures, but you can see what we're going for.
Thanks for reading!
3D printing has been used for years to create prosthetics, but the technology has faced challenges in printing soft tissues. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a solution that now makes soft tissue printing a possibility for medical use.
A Supportive Goo
Led by biomedical engineer Adam Feinberg, the team developed a supporting bath of goo with a similar consistency to mayonnaise, which allows them to 3D print soft biological structures without risking them collapsing under their own weight.
After they are printed, the researchers melt away the goo once the structures become stiff enough to support themselves.
The team printed sample structures such as model brains and hearts. According to Anthony Atala, a tissue engineer and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, these models are the most complex of any body parts created so far. “I think it's a very nice strategy that will open up even more avenues for future development and research,” he said.
Feinberg and his team solved the problem with the goo made of blended collagen. The approach is called freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels (FRESH). The goo’s melting point is much lower than that of the objects being constructed, making it easy to melt it away without damaging the structures.
A New Direction in Biomedical 3D Printing
The majority of research on biomedical applications for 3D printing were geared towards prosthetics, such as titanium plates for missing skull pieces or tracheal splints for collapsed airways. Researchers at several institutions have been experimenting with creating softer tissues, using watery gels of sugars or proteins. These matrices would be the support structure for live cells that are either printed or added after.
The matrix is formed by pushing molecules through a printer nozzle and cross-linking them to gels using chemicals or other stimuli. Usually, the resultant mixture looses form or collapses before it has the chance to harden into the required shape of the desired organ.
The team’s sample structures were modeled from resonance imaging and microscopy images. They printed a human brain and the heart of a baby chicken, both scaled to about the size of a quarter. They also produced a series of branching arteries.
Jonathan Butcher, a fellow biomedical engineer at Cornell University, thought the artery tree was quite impressive. “I don't know if we can make that geometry with our approach,” Butcher said. “The material complexity that they've been able to fabricate is really stunning.”
The Next Steps
In future experiments, the team will need to add live cells to the gel matrix created by the FRESH method. They are already working on creating a functioning heart muscle with live cells. Next, they hope to create heart muscle patches to repair heart defects.
The artificial tissues will be valuable for researchers to test new drugs and monitor disease processes. In the future, the artificial heart muscle might be able to actually pump the blood of a living person.
Image Credits: Carnegie Mellon
The 3D printing technology provides revolutionary roles in the fast evolving field of medical technology. China-based company, Revotek, announced their custom-made 3D bioprinter that can print real blood vessels and other multiple layers of cells. What makes this news truly revolutionary is that no other commercially available 3D bioprinters have done this before.
Yang Keng, Revotek’s chairman, noted that the company’s new 3D bioprinting system includes bio inks, medical imaging cloud platform, a 3D bioprinter, and a post processing system. With this new 3D printing system, it will now be easier to rebuild organs from scratch in the future.
The heart of this new technology is the stem cell culture system called the Biosynsphere biological bricks that are developed to create personalized cells. It contains seed cells as well as bio inks to create layered cell structures with defined physiological functions.
The new 3D printer works by alternately extruding bio inks, thus, it can create 10cm-long blood vessels under two minutes. The bio ink, on the other hand, is kept under special biological and environmental conditions so that the printer does not only make blood vessels but also various types of cells as well. But perhaps the most important component of this new 3D bioprinting system is the medical imaging cloud platform which will be available to all hospitals in China. This makes it easier for doctors and medical researchers to deal with bottleneck problems when it comes to treating different conditions using 3D bioprinted organs.
With this new revolution, 3D printing can pave the way for better medical procedures for patients who require organ transplants.