Sandrine Debecker February 10, 2015

Nearly every week there’s a story in the news about how 3D Printing is revolutionizing personalized health care. 3D software and models can be used to explain a patient’s condition to families, assist in diagnosing complex pathologies, review surgical planning and even test a procedure before physicians enter the operating room. Four-year-old Adaenelie Gonzalez, sixteen-year-old Bradley White, and others have all been helped thanks to this novel technology. As a growing number of surgeons are using accurate, plastic replicas of the heart to clearly understand the defects before they go into the operating room, 3D-printed models are on their way to winning the hearts and minds of clinicians wordwide. Are you curious to know how a 3D printed heart model is created? Watch our movie to see all the steps involved:

First, the physician imports the patient’s data into SurgiCase, an online platform that enables clinical engineers to share their case information with Materialise. With the Mimics® Innovation Suite, our engineers then convert medical imaging data into 3D models. The production unit orientates the model and adds additional printing support to the design.

heart model in Mimics

Afterwards, the file is uploaded to the 3D printer and the model is printed layer-by-layer. The particular model shown in the video below consists of 1,838 layers; the build time was as much as 49 hours (height: 183 mm). Usually, the longer the printing process, the more precise the model will be. Once the model is printed, a Materialise employee takes the platform off the printer and removes the support structure (for this particular heart model, 677mm³ of printing support was used). He/she then washes the resin off the model and applies some finishing, such as polishes and varnish, a time-consuming and delicate procedure. In addition, some parts may need to be glued on, for example the coronaries of the heart.

heart model coming off the 3D printer

Next, a quality check is done, to ensure that the model is an exact copy of the actual patient’s heart. Finally, this model is sent to the clinician, who will be able to save another life with the help of a 3D-printed model.

 “No matter how good 3D graphics are, there is nothing like holding a model in your hands…” - H.K. Kawamoto, MD DDS, UCLA Medical Center, USA

Interested in 3D-printed heart models? Learn more about HeartPrint®, Materialise’s 3D Printing service for printing anatomical models from medical imaging data.