Streamlined, inexpensive 3D printing of the brain and skull

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Abstract

Neuroimaging technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) collect three-dimensional data (3D) that is typically viewed on two-dimensional (2D) screens. Actual 3D models, however, allow interaction with real objects such as implantable electrode grids, potentially improving patient specific neurosurgical planning and personalized clinical education. Desktop 3D printers can now produce relatively inexpensive, good quality prints. We describe our process for reliably generating life-sized 3D brain prints from MRIs and 3D skull prints from CTs. We have integrated a standardized, primarily open-source process for 3D printing brains and skulls. We describe how to convert clinical neuroimaging Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) images to stereolithography (STL) files, a common 3D object file format that can be sent to 3D printing services.We additionally share how to convert these STL files to machine instruction gcode files, for reliable in-house printing on desktop, open-source 3D printers. We have successfully printed over 19 patient brain hemispheres from 7 patients on two different open-source desktop 3D printers. Each brain hemisphere costs approximately $3-4 in consumable plastic filament as described, and the total process takes 14-17 hours, almost all of which is unsupervised (preprocessing=4-6 hr; printing=9-11 hr, post-processing=<30 min). Printing a matching portion of a skull costs $1-5 in consumable plastic filament and takes less than 14 hr, in total. We have developed a streamlined, cost-effective process for 3D printing brain and skull models. We surveyed healthcare providers and patients who confirmed that rapid-prototype patient specific 3D models may help interdisciplinary surgical planning and patient education. The methods we describe can be applied for other clinical, research, and educational purposes. Copyright:

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Naftulin, J. S., Kimchi, E. Y., & Cash, S. S. (2015). Streamlined, inexpensive 3D printing of the brain and skull. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136198

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