BODY PARTS FRESH FROM 3D PRINTER; Doctors Are Able to Practice on Plaster Models

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Griffin

DOCTORS in Coventry have used a printer to create 3D replicas of damaged body parts on which to practice.

The pioneering technique has already been used by a surgeon to get to grips with an exact replica of a woman's fractured pelvis before operating on the real thing.

From bone and tissue scans, the university boffins can print out replica bones and organs, layer by layer, in plaster to form a three-dimensional model.

And some doctors reckon that, instead of printing parts for practise, they could one day be printing replacement body parts.

Dr Richard Wellings, of University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, said: "Technology is coming on leaps and bounds.

"We could be looking at printing not just in plastics and metals but in different materials. "And one of the most exciting things is printing using stuff that's analogous to the crystals in bone."

The 3D printers at the university's Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) are similar to standard ink-jet printers found in offices across the city.

But instead of printing on to a flat piece of paper, they print onto plaster which is transformed layer-by-layer into a 3D object.

Costing around pounds 30,000 each, they are widely used in engineering, to produce one-off prototypes for car parts and other gadgets without having to create expensive moulds. …