There is little doubt in my mind that – no matter how much we try to compare it to other innovations that occurred in the past – the 3D printing industry is unlike any industry that came before it. It is not a third or fourth revolution as much has it is the revolution. It is not the evolution of 2D printing or the “physcalization” of computing. It is all those things and a lot more. It is changing the way we do everything by making – or trying to make – all production more virtuous and beneficial.
That explains why companies like Advanced RP, a florida based, Stratasys-centered, rapid prototyping service, who have been working with 3D printing for decades, feel particularly proud when their technology is used to help children who suffer. So they contacted us to tell us about their recent partnership with Miami’s Nicklaus Children Hospital. The surgical department at Nicklaus purchased an Objet Eden 260VS and will be working with Advanced RP to produce 3D printed heart models for pre-surgical planing and research.
After extensive experimentation and background research, Chelsea Balli, Biomedical Engineer for The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, devised the optimal 3D printing strategy to create pediatric heart models for surgical planning. “This printing strategy allows the cardiac team to create life sized heart models rapidly, using textures and colors that closely approximate human tissues. The printer was also designed to utilize water soluble support materials, which rapidly dissolve in a warm bath, leaving the heart team with perfectly clean and accurate heart models,” she explained.
Most recently, The Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s turned to 3D printing to create a heart model for pre-surgical planning on a child born with TAPVC, a complex heart anomaly. In general it makes sense that all surgeries would be more complex in children, since their organs are smaller.
“These life-sized three-dimensional models enable us to hold and manipulate the smallest arteries, veins and valves of the heart, and envision and plan complex repairs,” said Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery for the Heart Program. “We intend to measure the impact of this technology on our surgical precision and outcomes.”
There now seem to be amazing new possibilities to develop surgical solutions, especially for children with complex congenital heart defects, who had been considered to be inoperable using conventional imaging techniques. “3D printing allows us to view the heart better than any photographic image. Having this technology at our fingertips opens doors to new treatment methods for the patients and families we serve. The possibilities are endless” confirmed Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz, Director of Cardiac MRI for The Heart Program.
While we at 3DPI and anyone involved in the 3D printing industry is deeply aware that pre-surgical 3D model production is one of the fastest areas of growth for 3D printing today, stories like this help us all visualize the practical benefits that it can bring worldwide. If we then consider that the cost of an Eden 260 is probably about 1/30 of the cost of an MRI machine, and that most hospitals in the word have one of those, it becomes even clearer that the possibilities are truly endless.