Neat! The ability to visualize and handle 3D models of living animals internal organs and such could be a huge boon to surgeons, and make “exploratory” surgery much less common. I’ve not clue the risk/return comparison to be had between a CT scan (tons of radiation) and exploratory surgery, but I can imagine an overlap somewhere where this is preferred.
The idea to print skeletons from CT scans came from Evan Doney, an engineering student working in the lab of Matthew Leevy, who runs the biological imaging facility at the University of Notre Dame. ”At first I didn’t really know what the killer app would be, I just knew it would be really cool,” Leevy said. But he began to see new possibilities after striking up a conversation with an ear, nose, and throat specialist during an office visit for a sinus problem. “I actually got out my computer and showed him some slides, and by the end of it we were collaborating.”
Doney used several freeware programs to convert data from CT scans into a format that could be read by a 3-D printer. As a proof of principle, he and colleagues printed a rat skeleton in white plastic and printed a removable set of lungs in green or purple.