3D printing is a technology which offers consumers and businesses alike the chance to print 3D models from the comfort of their own home or office. Multiple layers of material are laid down rapidly to create a replica of an object; often anything from a football to a figurine. NASA has commissioned 3D printers to be sent into space, enabling astronauts to build spare parts on the space shuttle or International Space Station, avoiding the need to carry heavy spares.
Now, though, there is a useful market for 3D printing: anatomical training. Traditionally, medical schools have used cadavers to teach students anatomical training. But facilities can be expensive, often costing tens of thousands and requiring compliance with numerous legal regulations. Fewer medical schools in the UK are using cadavers as a result.
3D printing enables medical schools to create their own body parts to teach with. It’s affordable and avoids the legal/ethical complications that using cadavers can bring. Already, a team in Melbourne, Australia, have created a 3D printed anatomy kit to help students. Prof Paul McMenamin from Monash University said: “Not everyone has the luxury of having access to real cadavers specimens because of all the problems of handling cadavers, storing cadavers and using them over and over again for teaching purposes.”
Prof McMenamin and his team hope to have the kits on sale within six months.