The Bonn-based caesar research centre is taking rapid prototyping into the operating theatre with the creation of stereolithographic models designed to help surgeons prepare operations in close detail.
With the help of the software platform Julius, two-dimensional computer tomography (CT) cross-sections of the patient are converted into a three-dimensional computer model.
Segmenting techniques are said to allow structures such as bones, cartilage, blood vessels and nerves to be read and recognised and marked in different colours.
Similarly, a combination of rapid prototyping and other processes, such as vacuum casting, enables the realistic representation of soft tissue body areas, which can be represented by different shades of colour. This, according to caesar, can be particularly useful in cancer surgery where tumour tissue can be clearly distinguished from healthy tissue by providing it with a different colour.
Details of body parts can be represented with an accuracy of down to 0.02 mm and the finished model can be sterilised and brought to the operating room.
Currently, caesar is refining the data transfer procedure and the process preparations as well as the technique of colouring individual structures.
Other projects at caesar include the making of customised implants from bone substitutes and of three-dimensional scaffolds for tissue engineering.
Representatives of caesar will be presenting their research results at the Euromold show in Frankfurt from December 4 to 7, 2002.