Please note that any references to “Imag3D” in this tutorial should be replaced with “democratiz3D”
In this tutorial you will learn how to create multiple 3D printable bone models simultaneously using the free online CT scan to bone STL converter, Imag3D. We will use the free desktop program Slicer to convert our CT scan in DICOM format to NRRD format. We will also make a small section of the CT scan into its own NRRD file to create a second stand-alone model. The NRRD files will then be uploaded to the free Imag3D online service to be converted into 3D printable STL models.
If you haven't already, please see the tutorial A Ridiculously Easy Way to Convert CT Scans to 3D Printable Bone STL Models for Free in Minutes, which provides a good overview of the Imag3D service.
You should download the file pack that accompanies this tutorial. This contains an anonymized DICOM data set that will allow you to follow along with the tutorial.
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 Imag3D service will use this email account to send you notifications when your files are ready for download.
Step 2: Create NRRD Files from DICOM with Slicer
Open Slicer, which can be downloaded for free from www.slicer.org. Take the folder that contains your DICOM scan files and drag and drop it onto the slicer window, as shown in Figure 1. If you downloaded the tutorial file pack, a complete DICOM data set is included. 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. Remember, this only works with CT scans. MRIs cannot be converted at this time.
Figure 1: Dragging and dropping the DICOM folder onto the Slicer application. This will load the CT scan.
A NRRD file that encompasses the entire scan can easily be created by clicking the save button at this point. Before we do that however, we are going to create a second NRRD file that only contains the lumbar spine, which will allow us to create a second 3D printable bone model of the lumbar spine. Open the CT scan by clicking on the Show DICOM Browser button, selecting the scan and series within the scan, and clicking the Load button. The CT scan will then load within the multipanel viewer.
From the drop-down menu at the top left of the Slicer window, select All Modules and then Crop Volume, as shown in Figure 2. You will now want to create a Region Of Interest (ROI) to encompass the smaller volume we want to make. Turn on the ROI visibility button and then under the Input ROI drop-down menu, select "Create new AnnotationROI," As shown in Figure 3.
Figure 2: Choosing the Crop Volume module
Figure 3: Turn on ROI visibility and Create a new AnnotationROI under the Input ROI drop-down menu.
A small cube will then be displayed in the blue volume window. This represents the sub volume that will be made. In its default position, the cube may not overlay the body, and may need to be dragged downward. Grab a control point on the cube and drag it downward (inferiorly) as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Grab the sub volume ROI and drag it downwards until it overlaps with the body.
Next, use the control points on the volume box to position the volume box over the portion of the scan you wish to be included in the small 3D printable model, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Adjusting the control points on the crop volume box.
Once you have the box position where you want it, initiate the volume crop by clicking the Crop! button, as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: The Crop! button
You have now have two scan volumes that can be 3D printed. The first is the entire scan, and the second is the smaller sub volume that contains only the lumbar spine. We are now going to save those individual volumes as NRRD files. Click the Save button in the upper left-hand corner. In the Save Scene window, uncheck all items that do not have NRRD as the file format, as shown in Figure 7. Only NRRD file should be checked. Be sure to specify the directory that you want each file to be saved in.
Figure 7: The Save Scene window
Your NRRD files should now be saved in the directory you specified.
Step 3: Upload your NRRD files and Convert to STL files using free Imag3D service
Launch your web browser and go to www.embodi3d.com. If you haven't already register for a account. Registration is free and only takes a minute. Click on the Imag3D navigation item and select Launch App, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8: launching the Imag3D application.
Be sure to turn on the Imag3D Processing slider! If you don't turn this on your file will not be processed but will just be saved in your account on the website. Once you turn on Imag3D Processing, you'll be presented with some basic processing options, as shown in Figure 9. At this time there's only one operation, conversion of a CT scan in NRRD format to a STL bone model. Leave that as the default. Threshold is the Hounsfield attenuation to use for selecting the bones. The default value of 150 is good for most applications, but if you have a specialized model you wish to create, you can adjust this value. Quality denotes the number of polygons in your output file. High-quality may take longer to process and produce larger files. These are more appropriate for very large or detailed structures, such as an entire spinal column. Low quality is best for small structures that are geometrically simple, such as a patella. Medium quality is balanced, and is appropriate for most circumstances.
Figure 9: The Imag3D File Processing Parameters.
Once you are satisfied with your processing parameters, click submit. Both of your nrrd files will be processed in two separate bone STL files, as shown in Figure 10. The process takes 10 to 20 minutes and you will receive an email notifying you that your files are ready. Please note, the stl processing will finish first followed by the images. Click on the thumbnails for each model to access the file for download or click the title.
Figure 10: Two files have been processed simultaneously and are ready for download
Step 4: CT scan conversion is complete your STL bone model files are ready for 3D Printing
That's it! Both of your bone models are ready for 3D printing. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please use the Imag3D service and SHARE the files you create with the community by changing their status from private or shared. Thank you very much and happy 3D printing!