Perks of the Job: Materialise Employee 3D Prints Full-Scale Copy of Her Own Spine

Through the 3D printing of patient specific implants and pre-surgical models, Materialise has made a huge impact on the medical field, possibly bringing positive change every life it touches.  Now, the Belgian software and service firm has touched its Materialise’s own Corporate Communications Manager, Vanessa Palsenbarg.  In an interesting blog post today, Vanessa writes about the 3D printing of her own spine.

Materialise's Vanessa Palsenbarg with 3D printed spine

Vanessa explains that she was diagnosed with scoliosis at five and has since been unable to treat it.  She’s undergone countless braces, surgeries, and therapies without any luck.  When a new bout of back pain returned to Vanessa more recently, she was able to have a copy of her own spine 3D printed by the engineers at Materialise.

Vanessa Palsenbarg's 3D printable model of spine materialise

After receiving a CT scan of her spine, the DICOM data was immediately ready for download, allowing her coworkers to being making her spine 3D printable. Materialise Mimics Suite is the tool of choice for converting medical scans to 3D printable models and, Vanessa tells me, her colleagues even implemented the newly released inPrint software for segmenting her spine before printing. Then, when, it was complete, Vanessa was able to open the SLS machine, remove the powder, and pull out a full-scale copy of her own spine.

Though she hasn’t yet been able to treat her condition, the life-size model, she believes, may help her and her doctors think of new methods of managing her scoliosis. She writes, “The smile you see on my face at the end of that video is a combination of both the pure joy at being able to excavate my own spine like some kind of sci-fi archaeologist, and of my hopeful determination to once again take control of my back and find ways to prevent the pain I know is on its way. This time I will be armed with information I had lacked in the past – my spine in 3D. I also have to admit that I can’t wait to see the look on the surgeon’s face when I walk in for a consultation holding a full sized replica of my spine.”