Frequently asked questions

What is 3D printing?

3D printing – also known as rapid prototyping – describes a family of technologies that create real-life physical objects, typically by adding material one layer at a time. It is very precise and can produce objects that would be difficult or impossible to create with other methods. That makes it perfect for creating exact reproductions of human physiology at an affordable price.

What is the advantage of 3D printing over traditional medical models?

The main advantage is the ability to print specific models for the case at hand: a unique model that really reflects what wants to be highlighted instead of a generic one. Besides this, the printing methodology allows for a precision that cannot be achieved with the traditional models. With 3D printing it is possible to generate the complete structure of human organs, including internal voids (e.g. the folds of the brain).

What are the 3D models made of?

Most models you've seen are probably printed in polyamide or ABS plastic, but 3D models can be manufactured in metals, clear and colored plastics, ceramics and glass. There are even 3D printers that work with chocolate.

Simple models are typically made of just one material in a single color, whereas complex ones could involve several materials in different colors and include a transparent material. For instance, a bone will normally be made of just one white material, whereas a brain tumor could be printed in different materials using different colours: normal brain tissue (transparent), tumor (brown), arteries (red), veins (blue).

How precise are 3D printed models?

Actually, the typical resolution for structural MRI or CT scans is around 1 mm, and often 3d printers can draw features around 10 microns. This means that we can print models with details smaller than the scanner can identify. As scanners and MR acquisition sequences get more accurate, so will our models. Thus, 3D printing can be as precise as the quality of the 3D scanned images. The printing precision can potentially be higher, yet it is limited by the current quality of the 3D images.

What is the advantage of 3D printing anatomical models over the use of corpses?

Corpses degrade and maintenance is burdersome (formalin or refrigeration). With a printed model no maintenance is required the model can be reprinted if it begins to degrade.

Do I need to do build the model all at once?

No you can save the project at any time point and return to it later. For example, you can upload the images today and trim them tomorrow.

Are the models to scale?

Usually yes, but scale can be chosen before printing.

Reproducing reality as faithfully as possible is our goal (i.e. with 1:1 scale). We can also produce smaller scale models (to fit printer limitation/ reduce costs) or larger scale models (to see more details of small structures) if desired. When rescaling a triangular mesh, however, some features may become too sharp or too thin to print using certain printers and/or materials.

Do you offer customer support and/or initial training?

Yes, please email us and we will respond to your questions.

How much does it cost to print a model?

It depends on the size and material.

The price depends on the size of the model and the number of materials used. For example a 30 cm linear bone (e.g. radius, tibia) printed in polyamide costs $300 plus shipping and handling.

When do I pay?

You can only when ordering the model to be printed, or unlocking the model for download.

How quickly can I get the model?

1-2 weeks from the order confirmation.

For a premium fee we can have the model printed closer to your location and express shipped to your location. Please contact us directly about this service.

What is the maximum size of the model I can print?

It depends on the printer.

Models up to about 50 cm can be printed on most industrial 3D printers, though size is also dependent on material type. Small models (below 10 cm) can be printed on desktop printers. For very big projects, printing can be done in different pieces.

Can you print full-color models?

Yes, but designing color models is not currently supported through the website.

Please contact us directly for color modelling needs.

Can you print different tissues in a single model?

Yes, but designing multimaterial models is not currently supported through the website.

Thanks to the use of different materials (with different colours and opacities) we can reproduce bone, fat, tumours, muscles, etc, each with a different material. We intend to add these features to future versions. Please contact us directly for multimaterial modelling needs.

Are the models rigid or soft?

Mostly rigid, though soft and bendable ("rubber-like") materials are available

Can it be dynamic (articulating)?

Sort of.

The models are typically static, and no such “pumping heart” is available. However, joints can be reproduced, with fully mobile articulations as in reality, but in this case the design and printing needs to be carefully controlled. Contact us directly for your articulating model needs.