3D printed body parts ‘just like the real thing’

Anatomical body parts made using a 3D printer will reduce the need for cadavers bequested to Australian medical schools.

The kit, produced by researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, includes all the major body parts required to teach anatomy, such as the chest, abdomen, the limbs, head and neck.

The pieces are made by scanning the real body parts, which are then printed in 3D using plastic and a plaster-like powder.

The result looks just like the “real thing”, says Professor Paul McMenamin, director of the University’s Centre for Human Anatomy Education.

“Radiographic imaging, such as CT, is a really sophisticated means of capturing information in very thin layers, almost like the pages of a book,” he said.

“By taking this data and making a 3D rendered model we can then colour that model and convert that to a file format that the 3D printer uses to recreate, layer by layer, a three-dimensional body part to scale.”

Professor McMenamin said the cost-effective kits, which are set to go on sale later this year, have the potential to improve trainee doctors and other health professionals knowledge of the body.

“For centuries cadavers bequested to medical schools have been used to teach students about human anatomy, a practice that continues today,” he said.

“However many medical schools report either a shortage of cadavers, or find their handling and storage too expensive as a result of strict regulations governing where cadavers can be dissected.”

The kit could also be useful in countries where cadavers are prohibited for cultural or religious reasons, he said.

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