A few weeks ago we marveled at the first surgery in the U.S. using a 3D printed skull implant, which was made by using data from precise X-ray CT scans.

Now a freshman student and a research assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame have conceived and commenced a project to make anatomical 3D models directly from X-ray computer tomographic data sets, which could help students and medical professionals to understand complex bone and organ structures, and also to diagnose and research diseases, reports Medical Daily.

A paper and corresponding video by the researches was recently published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), providing detailed instructions of how to use software packages to create and edit 3D models from CT scans, and accompanying 3D-printed models.

3D printed models of the lungs and skeletal features of a rat X-ray CT data set. Objects were printed using a ProJet HD 3000 (left), Shapeways Inc. (Center) or a Makerbot Replicator (right).
Source: Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

Making 3D models from CT scans isn’t a new concept. It has been done for several years now. In fact, it has matured enough to be FDA approved for the production of custom-made human implants. What’s new is that the software tools and 3D printers required to administer the process are becoming much more available, much less expensive and easier to use.

Given the trajectory, we can expect the pace of research and medical applications using 3D printing to pick up considerably.