In the age of the 3D-printer, you can print nearly everything. If you need a spare part, the printer will even copy things for you – if you have the right “blueprint”. And that’s where most of the work waits: In designing the 3D-model of the thing you want to copy. Sometimes you are lucky and someone has already done it for you. Sites like thingiverse.com are full of, well, things.
But sometimes all you have is the original. If the part has a simple geometry, cubic for example, it can still easily take some hours to draw it right with a CAD-program. If the geometry is unregular, rounded or not accessible for measurements, it’s nearly impossible to do it by hand. Of course there are quite a few 3D-scanners on the market, but most are really expensive, don’t really work, or both.
But many of you might have access to a 500’000 $ high-end 3D-scanner: The CT at your hospital! Just put whatever you want to print on the stretcher, fry the shit out of it, get the resulting DICOM-file, process it on embodi3d.com and ten minutes later you have a high-resolution, printable .stl-file! Other than a conventional optical 3D-scanner, a CT can even reproduce the internal structure of your stuff!
In my case, I wanted to copy the lower leg of a Laerdal Resusci Anne Simulator (I’ll tell you why in a later post, work in progress). I asked the friendly techs from my radiology department if they could scan the leg for me, and they agreed right away. They scanned the leg in extra thin slices, processed and burned the resulting DICOM-file on a DVD for me. As described in this excellent basic tutorial, I transformed the DICOM- to a NRRD-file an uploaded it to embodi3d. Ten minutes later I could download a perfect .stl-file – completely free! On embodi3d you also find more tutorials on how to get a good CT-scan of your objects. Of course, your rad-techs also know a lot about this!
So be nice to your radiology guys, fire up the CTs and scan your simulation equipment! The resulting files can be printed 1:1 as spare parts, but also be modified using a CAD-program. You could design a printable i.o.-leg, a bleeding arm or a fractured skull for your manikin – the possibilities are endless.
But please, if you do this: SHARE YOUR DESIGNS!!! Put the original files and any modifications you make online, so others can profit too!
You can find my .stl-file here.