Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Digital Anatomy Creator Software Enables 3D Printing of Medical Models

ST Medical Devices

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Over the past few years, Stratasys has transformed itself from a two technology hardware OEM with a strong service offering to a company that has a number of software products and a multi-technology offering. Come to Stratasys for your SLA, DLP, high-speed sintering, and, now, Digital Anatomy software. Stratasys’ Digital Anatomy is a solution for healthcare where PolyJet parts can be made to have the feel or anatomical structures.

The idea is that medical students could practice on 3D printed organs that give them a realistic sense of suturing, injecting, or cutting. These organs could even be used for surgical planning or in classes or to educate patients. Stratasys mailed me a Digital Anatomy heart and I was thoroughly impressed by the textures and feel of it.

“The Digital Anatomy Creator is the missing link between the patient, the printer and the final printed 3D anatomic model. This new software has allowed us to personalize our anatomic models to a mind-blowing level – we can now provide a level of care that is truly personalized to each of our patients, which is really important when working with children and their caregivers,” said Seth Friedman, PhD, Manager of Innovation, Imaging and Simulation Modeling for Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The new software attempts to solve one of the main problems of PolyJet. PolyJet is an exciting technology that can print a wide variety of colors, gradients and textures, but it is difficult to design for it using mesh, NURBS, or other traditional CAD tools. With such possibilities, it is also hard to know where you, as a designer, can start. Now, the company wants to let users create patient-specific anatomical models comparatively simply through its software. They can also do this now with FDA 510(k) cleared medical modeling workflows.

Surgeon practices on anatomical model prior to surgery.

Stratasys J750 Digital Anatomy can help standardize surgical skills and delivery of care by practicing on the most accurate representation of the targeted pathology. Image courtesy of Stratasys

I really think that these models are an exciting tool in education and  in explaining to patients what will happen to them, what a procedure will look like, or indeed what choices they have. Many patients are mystified by choices in surgeries and other procedures. These models could make the options much more real. The company also wants doctors to “replicate and share designs across a community for patient-specific anatomies.” I think that this would be a bit problematic in Europe, given privacy and patient data concerns, but it may be a good way for people on distant continents to study very specific cases.

Anatomic model 3D printed with Stratasys J750.

Medical 3D printing with Stratasys’ J750 Digital Anatomy printer. Image courtesy of Stratasys.

“We continue our journey towards accessible, accurate, and realistic 3D medical modeling by deepening our structural pathology flexibility with the introduction of the Digital Anatomy Creator module and by validating our digital workflow with 3rd party segmentation software with FDA 510(k) clearance. Our solutions allow providers to deliver best-in-class healthcare that leads to better outcomes and establishes a new level of care,” said Osnat Philipp, Vice President, Healthcare for Stratasys,.

I think that this could be a handy tool in patient education and it could very easily become a trend with hip hospitals all offering it. The march of 3D printing into personalized care and the expansion of point-of-care 3D printing is advancing rapidly. Hundreds of hospitals already offer customized, patient-specific, and training models and from in-house 3D printing centers.

In the U.S., hospitals can now be reimbursed for these models as well and they are being used to have a completely different dialogue with patients. Doctors have for years also used them to plan complex surgeries. In the long run, customized fixation solutions, braces, and implants, as well as custom surgical tooling, instruments, and hardware are all potential areas of expansion for 3D printing in hospitals. Bioprinting will begin to happen at one point, as well.

At the same time, while digitisation is rampant in many areas of our lives, hospitals are often quaintly analog, working with hardcopies of images and CDs. Patient data exchange and the keeping and accessing of patient data are huge businesses. Until now, the doctors have had precious few solutions to manipulate and present data well. All in all, Stratasys is coming up with an interesting solution that may make PolyJet more usable in hospitals.

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