3d printers

University of Minnesota Medical School receives 3D printers to better study the heart

Education and medicine are sectors that have continually seen the value of additive manufacturing. Now Stratasys has combined the two, donating Stratasys J750 Digital anatomy 3D printers, as well as MakerBot METHOD X® and MakerBot SKETCH® 3D printers at Visible Heart Laboratories at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The company hopes these machines will allow students to learn more about the uses of 3D printing in the medical field as well as provide additional training in heart anatomy.

Using 3D printing to create exact anatomical models for educational purposes or even preparation for surgery is nothing new. And depending on the technology, the models can be extremely accurate. Material jetting in particular can help reproduce colors and even textures, making the experience even more accurate. And that’s exactly what Stratasys offered the lab, along with some FDM printers from MakerBot. Dr. Paul Iazzo, a professor at Visible Heart Laboratories, University of Minnesota Medical School, confirmed the usefulness of 3D printing in their lab, commenting “Mixed reality education using high-resolution 3D printing is having a tremendous impact on our abilities to better educate residents, fellows, medical students, biomedical engineers, and many others.”

Two students examine a replica of a heart made using Stratasys 3D technology (photo credits: Stratasys)

Why did Stratasys donate to the University of Minnesota?

In the press release, Stratasys outlines a number of clear benefits that will be brought to Visible Heart Laboratories and the University of Minnesota through the use of 3D printing. The first is of course for education, not only to show exact models of the heart, but also to provide information on how accurate anatomical models can help doctors in their work. Not only that, but these templates can also be used for patients and medical team. Surgeons can show patients anatomical models to directly understand what is going on in their body, but also to help surgeons plan treatment options and even surgical procedures. Considering the number of operations that take place each year on the heart, exceeding 900,000 procedures each year in the United States and is expected to grow, this is invaluable in reducing the death rate from some very common diseases including coronary heart disease, heart attack, arrhythmia and more. In fact, the use of anatomical models could lead to better patient outcomes, reduced surgery time, and cost savings for hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Beyond teaching and surgical applications, 3D printing can aid in the creation of coronary medical devices, as the models can help create devices that mimic real anatomy and pathology. It will also help contribute to the University of Minnesota’s Atlas of Human Cardiac Anatomy. This collection contains 800 hearts that can be recreated with 3D printing for educational purposes or medical devices and testing. Rich Garrity, President of Americas for Stratasys, concluded: “We believe that the widespread use of 3D printed anatomical models in the healthcare industry would result in better, more cost-effective patient care and faster time-to-market for new innovations in of medical devices. This sponsorship allows us to support the world-class education and medical device research taking place right here in Minnesota. You can find out more in the press release HERE.

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Cover photo credits: Stratasys