We've explored 3D printing from lasercused bike porn to the new domain of litigators to the surge in cheap consumer-level printers. But here's an area about to be changed by 3D printing that you might not have considered: Brain surgery.
Scientists from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur recently created a realistic 3D-printed skull that matches the dense grey matter texture of our brain, including the layers of connective tissue. So maybe no more cutting into cadavers, med students can practice on 3D models, that are more realistic than anything previously produced (see photo at top for a sample of a previous model.)
You can watch a student cutting into the more realistic model in this video, but be forewarned, it's quite realistic:
Today's cutting-edge printers can produce plastic in all kinds of textures, from matte gooey to shiny hard. The scientists in Kuala Lumpur were able to manipulate the settings on their printer to create super realistic skin and bone. They created the tumor by filling a 3D printed cavity with jelly-like plastic and positioned it according to brain-scans taken from a real patient.
In the model, the brain layers and tumors are produced with vibrant color to look eerily real, and the brain can even bleed. Perhaps even more creepy is the fact that the plastic layers are able to mimic the sound of cutting into grey matter and membranes.
There is no limit to the operating scenarios that can be matched by the model so students effectively can rehearse operations before game time.
And like the continuing trend in all 3D-printing, the costs are decreasing to reasonable: Custom-made brains run around $600.