3D Systems Medical Goes Virtual with VR OR Surgical Training
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on January 26, 2017 | 5327 views

At the end of 2016, ENGINEERING.com had the opportunity to visit 3D Systems’ Healthcare Technology Center in Littleton, Colo., where, in addition to a myriad 3D printing tools designed for precision healthcare, 3D Systems showed off its surgical simulation modules. With haptic feedback and lifelike animations, the company’s simulation modules are designed to train medical professionals on various procedures, from angiograms to laparoscopic surgery.

Today, 3D Systems has announced that it is taking its simulation solutions a step further with the introduction of new virtual reality (VR) functionalities. Whereas its existing simulation tools provided force feedback, replicating the feel of an actual medical procedure, the company’s new Virtual Reality Operating Room (VR OR) replicates the surgical environment itself.

A trainee using the LAP Mentor simulator and wearing VR goggles. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
A trainee using the LAP Mentor simulator and wearing VR goggles. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

The VR OR simulator includes such elements as a virtual patient, OR team and OR equipment, as well as auditory diversions meant to reflect the ambiance of an actual surgical scenario. The VR OR line will be compatible with 3D Systems’ existing simulators as add-ons that can be used with an off-the-shelf VR headset. Beginning with the LAP Mentor Inguinal Hernia Module, medical professionals will be able to train in a 360-degree, immersive operating room environment. 

The trainee’s view from within the VR environment. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
The trainee’s view from within the VR environment. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
 During our visit with 3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi, we learned that Joshi sees the medical division as a prime execution of applied mixed reality. Within the Healthcare Solutions branch, it’s possible to see a smooth workflow from the company’s virtual surgical planning tools, with which patient medical data can be converted to 3D models for surgery prep, to patient-specific medical devices.

These simulation tools can then be leveraged before any guides or devices are printed, as a means of rehearsing a surgery virtually. At the moment, the simulators will most likely be used for training new surgeons, but because the angiogram simulator can already be tailored to a specific patient’s case, it’s easy to imagine the simulation modules being used to prepare for real surgeries with individual patients.

With the added VR capability, 3D Systems may become a pioneer in virtual training and surgery preparation. In our previous interview with Kevin McAlea, executive vice president and general manager of metals and healthcare at 3D Systems, he likened these simulation modules to flight simulators in aerospace. “Pilots in the 1960s were scornful of the notion of flight simulators,” McAlea said. “Today, pilots can't go up unless they've trained for hours on simulators.”

The LAP Mentor VR will make its debut at the 2017 International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (booth no. 401) Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 in Orlando, Fla. If you’d like to learn more, visit the VR OR page and the 3D Systems’ Healthcare Solutions page.

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