Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in 3D Printing

The visualization of three-dimensional objects before being printed out is a very important step of the whole process. While the advanced software offers high-quality visualizations, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) , Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) possibilities can enhance it even more. Thanks to machine learning, which regards AI, 3D printed models can be printed out the best way possible with the little probability of errors. Being incorporated in CAD software, we can make better modeling and rendering based on what AI actually suggests. Speaking about VR technology, the visualizations, in which there is a possibility to sea a virtual, three-dimensional object from the desirable angle, point of view and distance, enables surgeons to get a very interactive and real experience.

“This brand-new technology smoothly blurs the boundary between the physical world and computer simulation. As a doctor, I am no longer restricted to looking at my patient’s images from a bird’s eye view. Instead, I become part of the image and can move around in digital worlds to prepare myself, as a surgeon, for operation in detail never seen before,” says ophthalmologist Dr. Peter Maloca

In order to create 3D printed anatomical models successfully, medical images have to be first properly transformed into DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) files. The following process is handled by radiologists and medical professionals who need to prepare a step-by-step process. Recently, there has been also a rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) usage in visualizations and planning of 3D printed, maxillofacial (CMF), orthopedic or renal cancer models.

There are already some studies that can support the following point. One of them was conducted in order to examine the 3D printed and augmented reality (AR) models for patient education about renal and prostate cancer. The procedure involved patients, whose prostate cancer was visible on MRI scans. After undergoing clinical imaging, some of them received pre-operative planning with imaging and also either a 3D printed, AR visualized or 3D rendered in 2D computer, patient-specific model. Before conducting the surgical procedure, the 5-point Likert scale survey was conducted in the aim to compare the effectiveness of different forms of visualizations in the case of 3D models. However, when 200 patients filled out the survey, it turned out that they had a higher understanding while using 3D printed models instead of routine imaging or augmented reality (AR) models. This was regarding anatomy, the whole surgical procedure or disease and tumor characteristics. Considering the following study, even if augmented reality (AR) advanced possibilities seemed to enhance the patients understanding of the disease, the 3D printed models appeared to be more effective in that case. However, taking into consideration surgeons, it may be much more helpful in surgical procedures and pre-operative planning.

Augmented Reality (AR) in healthcare (image source:

How AI/AR and VR can effectively support 3D printing and pre-operative planning?

The advancements offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) can be especially useful for surgeons and their pre-operative planning of the surgical procedures. According to AI, applying it in the software while modeling and rendering 3D printed models can contribute to producing them in the most optimal and efficient way. Because the following technology utilizes algorithm-based machine learning, the pattern can be learned based on previous cases. Thanks to that, the most optimal features can be then effectively implemented in the next 3D printing processes. Taking into consideration AR, which enables us to create computer-generated objects in real-world, 3D space, it is possible to see how the model could potentially look like in real conditions. This means that it can be seen not only in a virtual but also in a real-life environment. The advantage of that is having an insight into the object without necessarily printing it out. This can be a very efficient way to save resources and minimize the probability of an error. Speaking about VR, it enables to simulate a desirable environment and have the experience to be a part of it. What’s more, it involves interaction and provides a visual, touch or hearing experience. That means, that taking into consideration three-dimensional bones, tissues or blood vessels structures, it is possible to see them virtually from many different angles, zoom them out or have a look at them from the bird’s perspective. All of the technologies mentioned above can be a great way to provide surgeons with the most interactive and advanced training before real surgical procedures.

In order to get to know more about AI, AR and VR possibilities stay tuned for the next part of the article! In the meantime, let us know how do you think these technologies can enhance the 3D printing processes and pre-operative planning in the comment below the post!


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