How to get a head in prototyping

A leading US surgeon has been able to dramatically reduce the time taken to perform delicate cranial surgery by making an exact replica of his patient’s skull using a 3D rapid prototyping process.

Spurred on by the Medical Modelling Corporation, Dr John Teichgraeber, a professor of Paediatric surgery at the University of Texas, used a 3D modelling system from Massachusetts-based Z Corporation to reduce the operating time for a craniofacial reconstruction on a nine-month old child.

Craniosynostosis, the premature closure of one or more of the seven bones of a baby’s skull, can result in brain damage and loss of vision, and the operation, which involves reshaping the skull, presents many challenges to the surgeon. If the bone is not cut in precisely the right place then it will grow asymmetrically and become deformed.

The need for careful planning, and accurate reference throughout the procedure is obvious, and Teichgraeber realised that using CT scan data and a Z-Corporation modelling system it would be possible to minimise risks, and speed the operation by creating a solid model of a patient’s skull.

Z-Corp’s Z402 creates a 3D model upto 250 by 200 by 200mm at a rate of around 50mm per hour. The machine works by distributing a layer of non-toxic cellulose powder onto a moveable plate.

A two-axis head with 128 individual jets then spray a 14mm wide trail of binder fluid over the model build area, creating a solid model from an STL file.

Using a model produced in this way, Dr Teichgraeber dispensed with the need for drawn out procedures involving two-dimensional CT slices and x-rays to diagnose and plan the surgery.

`The model provided more than enough accuracy and allowed both myself and the neurosurgeon to discuss the matter before surgery commenced and during the operation’ commented Dr Techgraeber. The Z402 is available in the UK from Umak Ltd in Solihull.

Umak Tel: 0121 744 8555

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