National Institute of Health Offers Its Collection of 3D Print Files To The Public

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HEADERThe National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States’ medical research agency, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases teamed up to launch a 3D Print Exchange on Wednesday. The exchange is an online repository that allows people to download, edit and create health and science-related 3D printing files for free.

NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins said 3D printing has helped save the U.S. government time and money, while helping scientists understand complex medical issues, so it only made sense to make that information available to the public.

“3D printing is a potential game changer for medical research,” he said. “At NIH, we have seen an incredible return on investment; pennies’ worth of plastic have helped investigators address important scientific questions while saving time and money. We hope that the 3D Print Exchange will expand interest and participation in this new and exciting field among scientists, educators and students.”

People who download and print items with the files will be able to do some of the things scientists do when they are evaluating health and science related issues. For instance, those who use the files to print 3D models could use them to better understand medical procedures.

Another novel feature of the site is that it includes a set of web tools that allow users to create their own scientifically and medically accurate 3D models–even if they have zero 3D modeling experience. NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said he hopes people use the files to better understand the bacteria, viruses, fungi and other things that make us sick.

“The ability to design and print tangible models of pathogens, for example, can give researchers a fresh perspective on the diseases they study and open new and promising lines of investigation.”

One such model, in this case human brain tissue, available on NIH website

One such design available on NIH website

The NIH 3D Print Exchange also has video tutorials that teach new users how to navigate the files and use them. And, in an effort to promote collaboration and discussion, the exchange has its own discussion forum.

The NIH 3D Print Exchange launch coincided with the White House Maker Faire. It took place on the first “National Day of Making.” President Barack Obama said in his proclamation about the day that it was created to foster innovation in the United States.

“Today, more and more Americans are gaining access to 21st century tools, from 3D printers and scanners to design software and laser cutters,” he said. “Thanks to the democratization of technology, it is easier than ever for inventors to create just about anything. Across our Nation, entrepreneurs, students, and families are getting involved in the Maker Movement. My Administration is increasing their access to advanced design and research tools while organizations, businesses, public servants, and academic institutions are doing their part by investing in makerspaces and mentoring aspiring inventors.”

How do you feel about the governments initiative in all of this?  What will having a library of medical files, available to download, for no charge, do for research in this country?  Let us know your opinion at the NIH 3D Print Exchange forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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Influenza. Courtesy image.

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