U.S. researchers evaluate 3D printed medical model accuracy using Formlabs technology

A team of seven researchers from various U.S. universities Published a study to test the accuracy of 3D printed medical treatments.

Unlike similar studies, which often focus on the same picture and disease, this work incorporates medical models that cover many diseases, making them more environmentally friendly. The research is unique in that it focuses exclusively on the Formlabs Form 3B 3D printer, which is widely used in dental, surgical, and educational applications.
Formlabs Form 3B 3D Printer. Image by Formlabs.
Formlabs Form 3B 3D Printer. Image by Formlabs.

Importance of accuracy

In the field of health care, 3D printing is increasingly being used for everything from anatomical models to surgical guidelines and medical implants. Many hospitals and medical centers have 3D internal printing labs, often called point-of-care 3D printing.

In applications, 3D printing of medical models is among the most advanced. Combined with 3D scanning and X-ray technology, these tools can be a very important part of patient care, and serve as an easy access to cadavers. 3D printed therapies allow physicians to better prepare for future treatments and surgeries by providing a visual approach to understanding the natural and technological relationship between tissues and organs.

Unfortunately, no standard has been agreed upon in terms of clinically acceptable measurement accuracy, but specifications of less than 1mm in size are considered sufficient. If there are defects and abnormalities in these 3D prints, this can lead to improper treatment plans, which can put patients at risk. Therefore, there is a need to understand how model accuracy can be affected by specific parameters such as object used, model geometry, and construction structure.
A team of 3D researchers printed seven different models for in-depth research. Photo by University of Cincinnati.
A team of 3D researchers printed seven different models for in-depth research. Photo by University of Cincinnati.

How is Form 3B compiled?

The U.S. team began printing 3D with seven different models – six anatomical models and one reference cube – in three resins (Elastic, Clear, and Gray Pro). Anatomical models are designed to cover several common ailments, including neurological, cardiovascular, abdominal, and muscular.

When it came time to measure the authenticity of the models, the team created two solid measurement blocks around each pathologies and easily used the most accurate digital micrometer. These dimensions are compared with the designed size of the corresponding 3D files.

If you look at the results, the absolute error was less than 1mm in all models, with an average error of about 0.25mm. Interestingly, empty models were more accurate than solid models and elastic models were less accurate than their solid counterparts. While there was no direct difference between the 0.1mm and 0.05mm layer height settings, medical models facing upwards (shorter) in the construction room were found to be less accurate than those of the vertical (higher z-height).

Many of the effects can be caused by the physics of desktop 3D SLA 3D printing, especially with regard to the force caused by peeling off parts from the bottom of the machine. However, with a width accuracy of less than 1mm, Formlabs Form 3B was determined to be accurate enough in the 3D printing of medical models, as long as the parts are solid and made of durable sheet.

Prashanth Ravi, co-author of the study, concludes, “I believe that this paper plays an important role in the growing literature around this topic by marrying the precision modeling model and basic physics process for the first time in the field of 3D medical printing. ”

More study details can be found here. The paper was co-authored by Prashanth Ravi, Leonid Chepelev, Nathan Lawera et al.

Just last year, a similar study from Queensland University of Technology challenged the accuracy of the FDM 3D printing process when it comes to anatomical reconstruction. The team of researchers was able to show that changing the frequency of fragmentation had a significant impact on the repetitive location accuracy of 3D printed models.

Alternatively, in the field of bioprinting, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a 3D bioprinting model with a complete human heart. The scientific process of the Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) process involves extracting an eco-friendly alginate polymer into a container made of gelatin.

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The attached image shows the Form 3B 3D printer. Image by Formlabs.

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