3D Printers and Medical Applications

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3D printers are now being used for many things. The fields of science, art and education have taken advantage of this technology but now the medical community is getting in on the act as well.

Doctors at CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center- Bergan Mercy in Omaha have been using 3D printing to create models of patients’ ultrasound images. These models are designed to help doctors learn about the fetus and how its anatomy may change.

The models also help doctors train for complex surgical procedures. This technique is becoming more common in a few medical institutions as 3D printing is relatively cost-effective.

For obstetricians, the ultrasound models provide a more tangible representation of the fetal anomalies that will be treated in surgery. This helps obstetricians better explain to families the exact areas that will be treated in a procedure and can serve as a bonding opportunity between parents and the baby they’re planning to deliver.

These tactile models are also a life-changing tool for visually impaired individuals. Tactile maps, works of art and 3D printed fetal faces obtained at the time of ultrasound have provided these individuals with a physical representation of what sighted people take for granted.

A new technique, called direct sound printing (DSP), uses ultrasound waves to assemble microparticles into a three-dimensional object in a single shot. The technique is ideal for forming complex geometries that cannot be achieved with existing methods, and may have potential applications in additive manufacturing for medical devices.