In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at the fantastic work done by the Materialise office in Kiev, Ukraine. With a large part of their efforts focused on software development, we spoke to team leader Olga Sholonik about the development of Materialise Mimics inPrint; the go-to software for 3D Printing in hospitals.
Can you give us a short introduction about yourself?
My name is Olga Sholonik. I did my master’s degree in Computer Science at the National Technical University of Ukraine, the 'Kyiv Polytechnic Institute'. I have been with Materialise for about 11 years, starting as a test engineer, then working as a functional analyst and being a project manager for the RSM product. Currently I am a project manager and team leader of the Mimics team.
The team in Kiev has been working hard to develop Mimics inPrint. Could you describe its basic functions?
Mimics inPrint is a workflow-based application which guides the user from patient images (usually CT or MRI scans) to 3D printing a model from those images. The workflow itself contains several steps which have an easy and intuitive user interface, even for beginners. The first step is to import the images to the application. This can be done either from a folder on a disk or from the hospital PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) which can be integrated within the application.
Then with a set of editing tools, the user colors the region of interest, and we call this process Segmentation. From the region of interest the application automatically creates a 3D model with a single click. This model can be further adjusted, for example by smoothing or cutting it into several parts. Then the application automatically prepares the model for 3D Printing. When the model is ready for printing, there is one final step: it gets exported to a file format supported by 3D printers. Additionally, an interactive PDF file with a 3D model preview can be generated, which enhances the communication between the physician and patient as well as colleagues.
Could you describe in detail the workflow you followed to create Mimics inPrint, from start to finish?
The concept and design phase was elaborated mostly by our product team. They visited a lot of potential customers, gathered their needs, created and discussed several mock-ups with them and finally defined the optimal steps in the workflow. All the gathered information was consolidated into software requirement documents by our functional analysts. At the same time the changes to the Mimics code base were started by our development team so that it was easy to reuse the Mimics Medical algorithms in the inPrint features.
Also, for inPrint a number of new algorithms were developed by the Materialise Algo-as-a-Service team. When the first part of the requirements were ready we started the implementation of the tools. The approach was to implement them in the order defined by our workflow. Additionally, the intermediate versions of the application were demonstrated to potential customers in order to get their feedback as early as possible. We had the ambitious goal of almost completing the workflows for the heart and bone structure before the RSNA conference, so all the teams involved worked on a tight schedule. Afterwards, the existing tools were fine-tuned based on feedback from the conference.
Can you tell me a bit about the different members of the team and what their roles were in creating this software?
Materialise Mimics inPrint was developed by the same team which supports and improve the Materialise Mimics software. The functional analysts are responsible in our team for the requirements design and also the early validation of the features in the application. The developers are focused on the implementation of the features in the software, and the test engineers verify that the quality of the implementation corresponds to the level appropriate for medical software. We also worked in close cooperation with the team at headquarters in Belgium, and certain members of the US office were involved as well.
How and why do you think Mimics inPrint will be a valuable asset to the medical community?
Medical companies as well as hospitals strive to be effective in their processes, even though their cases are often patient-specific and should be processed individually. Previously, the patient-specific cases were done by engineers from external companies or in-house with a set of complex tools which cannot be easily learned by personnel. With Mimics inPrint the doctors and other members of the treatment team will be able to create 3D anatomical models for planning and analysis quickly and easily, and can either print the models in-house or through an external supplier.
Materialise Ukraine specializes in developing innovative software solutions to suit the needs of our clients. Do you have a passion for creating the software behind medical 3D Printing? Why not take a look at our career vacancies here.