Breakthrough May Soon Allow the Creation of 3D Printed Medical Models to be as Easy as Using a Smartphone

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butterfly networkIt seems like every other day we are reporting on instances where 3D printed medical models have been used in doctors’ offices, operating rooms, and surgical centers throughout the world. It is the technology of 3D scanning and 3D printing which is leading to breakthrough in treatment of diseases, condition, and injuries which previously were unthought-of.

Whether it is the 3D printing of tumors and surrounding tissue to help surgeons accurately remove cancer from someone’s body without risk of damaging healthy tissue, or the better understanding of broken bones via tangible models that can be viewed in true 3D, this technology definitely will see greater use in the coming years. It’s just a matter of time, money, and getting used to the new technology, which is ultimately holding it back from widespread use.

Wouldn’t it be great if doctors, surgeons, and even you, yourself could easily scan your internal organs, bone structure, and other tissues, and then 3D print out accurate models? Well, if one company called Butterfly Network gets their way, this may be possible within a short amount of time.

medmodel4

The CEO, Chairman, and Product Architect of Butterfly Network, Jonathan Rothberg is a brilliant man who envisions a not-too-distant future where taking an internal body scan will be as simple as holding an iPhone-sized device up to your body, and instantly receiving a live scan. Rothberg has raised $100 million for the creation of this medical imagining device, and he says it is nearly as cheap as a stethoscope.

According to patent documents, the technology relies on a newly developed ultrasound chip, which if developed further could even lead to the ability to effectively kill cancer cells with heat, or deliver information directly to one’s brain.

medmodel5Details on the device are very scarce, but Rothberg says it will cost a few hundred dollars, be small, and have the ability to connect to a smartphone. It will, he says, also be able to effectively diagnose breast and other forms of cancer, and act as a visualization aid for seeing a fetus within a mother’s womb.

The devices are basically ultrasound emitters that have been etched into semiconductor wafers, along with processors and circuits.

“I think it will become better than a human saying ‘Does this kid have Down syndrome, or a cleft lip?’ And when people are pressed for time it will be superhuman,” explained Rothberg.

For those interested in creating medical models, ultrasound provides some advantages as well as many disadvantages compared to CT scans and MRIs. Ultrasounds are usually not very good at detecting and showing bone structures, but are quite useful in the display of soft tissues such as internal organs, tumors, etc. Hooked up to the correct computer software, this could be a means of creating detailed 3-dimensional virtual models of these soft tissues within one’s body. When combined with further 3D modeling software, the results could be intricate, detailed 3D printed models of various soft tissue within the human body.

With the cost of these devices only being in the ‘hundreds of dollars,’ virtually anyone would now have access to 3D imagines of their internal structure, with the ability to model and print these structures on a typical consumer level 3D printer. Perhaps it would lead to a ridiculous amount of self-mis-diagnoses, but it certainly would lead to greater use within the medical field, and more widespread adoption of 3D printed medical models within operating room settings, leading ultimately to more successful surgeries and more accurate diagnoses.

What do you think about the potential that this technology holds? Discuss in the Super Cheap Ultrasound Device forum thread on 3DPB.com.

[Source: Technologyreview.com]

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