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3D Printing Helps Life Saving Heart Surgery It may sound like something out of science fiction, but doctors at Children's National Medical Centre in Washington, DC, are making hearts.

Not actual hearts, but three dimensional synthetic models churned out by what looks like an ordinary printer. The printer uses data from individual patients to replicate the organs of those individuals, reflecting their particular intricacies and deformities. The device synthesises images from CT scans or ultrasounds, translating that information into thin layers of plastic that are stacked until they form a three dimensional object. "We found the perfect combination of materials that actually allows you to place a suture through it or stick a needle through it," Krieger said. "It feels similar to tissue. You can make a valve soft but the surrounding tissue hard, and then the bone really hard. So you can have different levels of the mechanical properties." He and his colleagues also modelled a dislocated spine by printing hard plastic vertebrae with softer, jelly like discs in between, so that it moved realistically, enabling doctors to better understand the injury. Printing ears, and a partial face Once used primarily by industrial companies for creating prototypes of such things as cars and jewellery, three dimensional printing has expanded into much wider use in recent years. People are printing guitars, aeroplane parts even guns. One man has used a 3 D printer to make more 3 D printers. Last week, the office supplies company Staples announced that customers will soon be able to print 3 ray ban 2016 sunglasses D objects in its US stores. In medicine, 3 D printing is rapidly gaining a reputation as the next great promise. Bioengineers at Cornell University recently printed an artificial ear injected with cells from a cow's ear that looks and acts like a real ear. While ray ban goggles models not yet ready for clinical use, scientists say this kind of replica could help patients who lose ears in accidents or from disease, as well as those born with disfigured or missing ears. Doctors in Britain recently used a 3 D printer to create a partial prosthetic face for a man who had been disfigured by cancer. In February, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a skull implant created by a 3 D printer. Children's National Medical Centre isn't yet making tissue with its 3 D printer; its plans for doing so are in the "early stages", according to Peter Kim, vice president of the institute. But the hospital is expanding the scope of work it is doing with the machine. Children's, which has had its printer for about a year, has used the device to create a robotic scope designed to reduce human involvement in endoscopic procedures; it has also designed forceps built to rotate a needle so it's oriented properly when a doctor is stitching up a patient. The hospital is partnering with the University of Maryland to print medical devices that would break down in the body over time rather than requiring a follow up removal procedure. Like other printers, it ray ban aviator jams The machine at Children's looks unremarkable, not much different than an industrial copier. It hums and whirrs like a home printer. Peer through the printer's glass surface while it's running and you can see a blob like model taking shape. Depending on how complex a job is, it can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire day to produce a model. Instead of ink, the printer uses liquid plastics, which cost about 40 US cents a gram. The tiniest heart might use about $US30 of material; the plastic for a larger heart could run closer to $US100. The models are built from bottom to top, each layer a thin plastic shaving on top of the one before. "You have UV lights on both sides of the printer head," Krieger said. "While it's printing, it cures the level that is below. So it really builds it up stack by stack and cures it, so it solidifies and becomes hard." (And, no, printer jams aren't just limited to the machines that spit out paper. "Absolutely, that happens with this printer," Krieger said.) Because of the high temperature during the process, models are surrounded with a soft filler material so that they don't collapse on themselves as they're being printed. This means that when a job is complete, the finished product looks at first like a warm, gelatinous blob. "A solid mass, you wouldn't recognise it at all," said Kevin Cleary, technical director of the institute's bioengineering initiative. "It's like a diamond before you polish it up. Then you put it in a bath or in a power washing machine to scrub it out." After the cleaning process, the model is complete. The team at Children's is making models in all colours, sizes and textures. The beige model of an infant's heart is walnut size and hard as a clamshell, while a much larger heart model representing a 24 year old patient is jet black and rubbery. Sometimes doctors choose different colours and textures so they can better examine distinct anatomic qualities. In other cases, the choices are purely aesthetic. "You can print with different colours, different materials," said Kim. "Some of them are transparent and see through. You can use different materials from hard to soft to silicon." Expensive and time consuming, for now Though the possibilities of 3 D printing are enormous, the technology is still new, and it's expensive. The printer at Children's cost about $US250,000. A high end ultrasound machine can cost about $US270,000, and a portable CT unit is about $US550,000, according to Laurie Hogan, the director of radiology services at Children's. Making 3 D models is also time consuming. Just prepping ultrasound images for the printer can take many hours. "The very first one I did was not even recognisable as a heart, and it probably took me like 25 hours to do," Olivieri said. But doctors at Children's believe the ray ban caribbean investment in time and money is worth it. "Complex congenital heart disease, thank goodness, is fairly rare," Olivieri said. But "this is something that's going to really help us take care of them".

"Not that long ago, people with congenital heart disease didn't even survive," she said. With new surgical techniques, and now 3 D printing, "I don't even think we now realise what it's going to be, what impact that will have.".


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