Use of low-cost 3D printers in producing anatomical models and surgical guides at the hospital

The use of patient-specific 3D models are being used in an increasing number of industries, however, most may think that investing in 3D printing technology is very costly. Even though there is a new method of “One-stop 3D printing lab”, which enables to print out the models for training and surgical planning very fast and cost-efficiently. Mostly, it concerns the use of the material with the aim of reducing its amount being used in the print-outs process. This can happen thanks to the laminating pitch (layers thickness) and density of the fill, which enables it to control the material usage.  Such a method can be especially useful in maxillofacial surgeries of dentistry.

In order to produce the 3D printed anatomical models and surgical guides in a quick and cost-saving way, the highest accuracy needs to be ensured. First, the imaging and the data to the CAD software have to be provided. It can be done thanks to the DICOM image, which is the base in the further step of the process. A research was conducted to check whether the use of low-cost 3D printers for producing such models can be effective or not. After the following procedure described above, the models were printed out by the most common low-cost 3D printing method, FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication). The printing machine that was used was MF-2000 (MUTOH) and the thickness of the laminating pitch was measured as 0.2 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, or 0.5 mm. Then, a precise evaluation was done. The results indicated that even when the laminating pitch was increased, the material used decreased. Also, the cost and time were reduced as it was assumed at the beginning while there was no apparent reduction in the accuracy of the geometries.

VALUE 3D MAGIX MF-2000 MUTOH ENGINEERING (image source: https://www.aniwaa.com/product/3d-printers/)

How can the use of low-cost 3D printers can support surgeries such as maxillofacial or dentistry fields? 

As we can deduce from the research, mentioned above, printing out the models by the low-cost machines, can increase the number of models used in any specific focus of surgical applications while it reduces costs related to materials, maintenance and operation. In addition to the points mentioned, it has been proven numerous times that such printers can also produce highly accurate models and tools. However, the limitation can be expertise and technological skills. It demands a deep understanding of models’ physical properties, structure, software possibilities, and 3D printing machine operations. There are multiple model properties that need to be monitored during the whole process to create an accurate, well-formatted, and shaped anatomical model.

Maxillofacial Surgery

What are the future considerations of “one-stop 3D printing lab”?

Except for implementing the low-cost, efficiently produced models in major surgeries, the “one-stop 3D printing lab” method can be useful in bone dissection or planning and simulations of the less complicated surgeries like endodontic treatment, Also, it was having an impact on dental fields and dentistry in general. However, the method appears to have prospects also producing organs like jawbones and teeth in oral and maxillofacial surgeries and this is also the future. With more adjustments, trials and high-resolution images, the method can be improved in that term. What is also very significant is the know-how of the FDM 3D printing, preventing deformation and always obtaining the best quality, data. The CT scans are very important part of the “one-stop 3D printing lab” processing and it has to be constantly developed.

What’s your point in the 3D printing in terms of implementing low-cost printing machines to create anatomical models? Share with us your thoughts in the comment below!

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