3D Printed Skulls Help Teach Future Brain Surgeons
Kyle Maxey posted on December 13, 2013 |
Brain surgery is notoriously difficult with surgeons spending years honing their craft. Given the need for more hands-on practice performing surgical operations, researchers at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur have created a 3D printed skull that can provide just that.

Using scans of each layer of the human skull, Vicknes Waran, professor in the Department of Surgery, used an Object500 Connex 3D printer to create a multi-material skull and brain model that accurately simulates the textures and colors seen by surgeons.

From bone to membranes, the new model is a vast improvement over previous simulations that used a single material throughout the entire apparatus. With the new model surgeons in training can see, hear and feel the transitions between materials, helping them learn and perfect their craft.

Beyond accurate reproduction, 3D printed surgical models can also be used to simulate a variety of brain conditions which can be printed at an instructor’s request.

All in all each skull cost around $2,000 to produce, with disposable inset materials like the skull’s entryway and simulated brain tissue running about $600. At that price, the new 3D printed tool is an affordable, safe and readily available quantity, unlike the flesh and bone alternatives that were previously used.

Of all the industries impacted by 3D printing it seems like medical science has been one of the quickest to embrace the technology, and it continues to push the boundaries of what rapid prototyping can accomplish. As 3D printing continues to develop, particularly in the area of bio-printing, doctors might be able to leverage the customizable nature of 3D printing given the peculiarities and uniqueness of the human body. Moreover, with new methods for creating implants, grafts and possibly organs, medical science might be on the verge of giving all of us longer, more productive and satisfying lives.

Images and Video Courtesy of New Scientist

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