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Create a 3D-Printed Rib Cage and Thorax from STL Files

Angel Sosa


Create a 3D-Printed Rib Cage and Thorax from STL Files

As the second largest largest hollow cavity (largest space between bones), the thoracic cavity encases the lungs, trachea, pericardium, base and apex of the heart, esophagus, as well as all the vessels transporting blood between the lungs and heart. The ribs enclosing these vital organs also include skeletal features such as the sternum, vertebral column, and breastbone. The feature separating the thoracic cavity from the largest cavity in the body (abdominal cavity) is separated by the diaphragm, a muscular, membranous partition that is used to control respiration.  


In this week's embodi3D® top ten, we would like to share with you some of the top 3D uploads of the chest, including some STL files you can use to create a 3D-printed rib cage or thorax. The benefits of creating three-dimensional models to practice thoracic surgeries was recently highlighted in the Journal of Thoracic Disease in an article titled "Multi-dimensional printing in thoracic surgery: current and future applications." As the technology behind medical 3D printing continues to advance, each iteration brings us closer to highly realistic simulations of thoracoscopic surgery, allowing surgeons to practice cutting, suturing, stapling, and a range of other thoracic surgical procedures.


Graphic of a woman jumping overlaid with a 3D-printed rib cage model


To get the most out of your time on the embodi3D® website (and use the many democratiz3D® medical 3D printing tools), you should register with embodi3D®. The process is free, easy, and will take just a few minutes of your time. And, it just might change the way you practice medicine. After you've browsed these STL files, you can also check out our growing CT scan collection showing various conditions of the thorax and ribs.  




#1. An Incredible 3D Model of the Chest Cavity Bones

JCab uploaded this excellent 3D model of the bones of the rib cage without costochondral cartilage. The thoracic cavity has several functions. The first is to provide protection and support to the body’s vital organs. The thoracic cavity is surrounded by the rib cage and several layers of membranes, which help keep the organs protected from any dangers in the environment.





#2. A 3D model of a Chance Fracture of T10

This 3D model created on embodi3D® features a fracture also known as flexion-distraction injury or seat belt fracture.  Usually occurs from T11-L3 levels.

– 78% occur between T12 and L2 levels
* Occasionally at midthoracic spine
* May have anterior injury at one level, posterior injury at adjacent one.


Staging, Grading, & Classification
• Osseous Chance fracture
* Vertebral body fracture
* Posterior element fractures: Pedicles, transverse processes, laminae, spinous process
• Ligamentous Chance injury (uncommon)
* Intervertebral disc
* Facet dislocation
* Ruptured interspinous ligaments
• Osteoligamentous Chance injury
* Variable combination of fracture and ligament injury




#3. A 3D Model of the Sternum in STL Format

This 3D model shows us the sternum also called breastbone, in the anatomy of tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates), elongated bone in the centre of the chest that articulates with and provides support for the clavicles (collarbones) of the shoulder girdle and for the ribs.


In mammals the sternum is divided into three parts, from anterior to posterior: (1) the manubrium, which articulates with the clavicles and first ribs; (2) the mesosternum, often divided into a series of segments, the sternebrae, to which the remaining true ribs are attached; and (3) the posterior segment, called the xiphisternum. In humans the sternum is elongated and flat; it may be felt from the base of the neck to the pit of the abdomen. The manubrium is roughly trapezoidal, with depressions where the clavicles and the first pair of ribs join. The mesosternum, or body, consists of four sternebrae that fuse during childhood or early adulthood. The mesosternum is narrow and long, with articular facets for ribs along its sides. The xiphisternum is reduced to a small, usually cartilaginous xiphoid (“sword-shaped”) process. The sternum ossifies from several centres. The xiphoid process may ossify and fuse to the body in middle age; the joint between manubrium and mesosternum remains open until old age.






#4. A 3D Model Showing Rib Cage (Left Side) in STL


The human skeleton has 12 pairs of ribs. Working from the top of the torso down, ribs 1 to 7 are considered "true ribs," as they connect directly from the spine to the sternum, Martinez says. Ribs 8 to 10 are called "false ribs" because they don't connect directly, but have cartilage that attaches them to the sternum. Ribs 11 and 12 are called "floating ribs" because they only connect to the spine in back. These, he says, "are much shorter."





#5. Right Side of Ribs Shown in Medical 3D Model


This incredible created on embodi3D® shows the right sided ribs with exquisite detail. The ribs allow chest expansion for breathing, Martinez explains. "They function similarly to the bucket handle on a bucket and swing upwards as we take a breath, allowing the thoracic cavity to expand." This increase in the thoracic cavity makes it easier to take a breath.



#6. An Informative Tutorial on Showing Thoracic Cavity Arteries with STL Files

This incredible chest and humerus was generated from a CT scan data and is thus anatomically accurate as it comes from a real person-




#7. STL File Showing a Three-Dimensional Model of a Clavicle


The clavicle (collarbone) extends between the manubrium of the sternum and the acromion of the scapula. The clavicle has three main functions:

- Attaches the upper limb to the trunk as part of the ‘shoulder girdle’.

- Protects the underlying neurovascular structures supplying the upper limb.

- Transmits force from the upper limb to the axial skeleton.






#8. 3D Imaging of the Costal Cartilage


Do you know that the sexual difference in pattern of human costal cartilages is statistically significant and thus highly predictive of sex determination?

The first rib cartilages were not considered because there are no sex differences. The lower ribs exhibit sexual dimorphism. Mineralization and ossification changes appear at the end of puberty and their occurrence increases with age. 





#9. 3D Model of the Sternocostoclavicular Joint


Many physicians are unfamiliar with the characteristics of the sternocostoclavicular joint (SCCJ). Disorders of the SCCJ, although common, frequently escape recognition. The most common SCCJ disorder is degenerative disease manifesting as osteoarthritis or as periarticular lesions causing antero-medial dislocation of the clavicle. Septic arthritis is the most severe disorder and can lead to mediastinitis. All inflammatory joint diseases, including spondyloarthropathies, can affect the SCCJ. SCCJ involvement is a typical component of the osteoarticular manifestations seen in patients with palmoplantar pustulosis.





#10. A 3D-Printable STL Medical File (Converted from CT Scan DICOM of Thoracic Cage)

The thoracic cage (rib cage) is the skeleton of the thoracic cavity. It is formed of 12 thoracic vertebrae, 12 ribs and their costal cartilages, and the sternum. Its main function is to give support and protection for the vital organs of the thorax. 




1. Rejtarová, O., Slizova, D., Smoranc, P., Rejtar, P., & Bukac, J. (2004). Costal cartilages–a clue for determination of sex. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub, 148(2), 241-243.


2. Le Loët, X., & Vittecoq, O. (2002). The sternocostoclavicular joint: normal and abnormal features. Joint Bone Spine, 69(2), 161-169.


3.  Vertebral column | anatomy. (2018). Encyclopedia Britannica. 


4. Giannopoulos, A. A., Steigner, M. L., George, E., Barile, M., Hunsaker, A. R., Rybicki, F. J., & Mitsouras, D. (2016). Cardiothoracic applications of 3D printing. Journal of thoracic imaging, 31(5), 253.


5. Ross, J. S., & Moore, K. R. (2015). Diagnostic Imaging: Spine E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.








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