3D design and innovation
At Northwell Health, we're dedicated to transforming the way we provide care through advanced medical imaging and innovative 3D printing.
3D printing is astonishing technology that allows us to produce a three-dimensional object from a digital 3D file, such as a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing or a CT/MRI scan. This enables us to create devices that are matched to a patient’s anatomy (patient-specific devices) or devices with very complex internal structures. 3D printing is currently utilized within Northwell's Orthopedics, Dentistry, Plastics, ENT, Thoracic Surgery, Radiology and Neurosurgery departments, as the models they produce can provide a better understanding of anatomical structures and pathologies within various specialties.
3D-printed, patient-specific anatomical models provide a highly detailed visual perspective that you can‘t achieve with 2D sliced MRI/CT models—and they can be created in as little as a day. They are invaluable to our clinical professionals, as they provide the ability to interact in a learning environment with real case studies—demonstrating a prognosis and comparing it with the outcome. These models can be used during consultations with patients and their families when explaining conditions, for prosthesis testing, and to enable clinical and surgical teams to evaluate better treatment decisions and plan procedures more accurately.
Types of anatomical models include:
- Tumor resection models — These can be used to clearly highlight the tumor and surrounding tissue
- Orthopedic models — These are built from materials that are bone-like, which can be used for presurgery measuring and medical device adjustments
- Vascular models — These can be printed to identify abnormalities in the organ, tumors, blood flow, sliced chambers, valves, muscle tissue, calcified tissue and more
- Dentistry — In the age of digital dentistry, we are able to provide 3D printed dental appliances and more to our in-house dentists
Our state-of-the-art, automated 3D printing lab means precise, personalized care for our patients—and it's changing the future of medicine.
Frequently asked questions
How do 3D printers work?
3D printers create solid objects by building up thin layers of material (such as different types of plastic); think of a normal printer printing a “stack” of paper but in a predefined shape—it can be solid or hollow, and sometimes needs support scaffolding to hold up pieces of the print when printing.
What materials are used in 3D printing?
There are many different kinds of materials and technologies used in 3D printing. Some are:
- Plastic — uses a nozzle like a glue gun to melt plastic into thin filaments that are layered (aka thermoplastic extrusion, fused deposition)
- Binder jetting — uses a bed of plaster powder where an inket-style print head lays down binding solution (similar to superglue); alternates layers of powder and binder
- Metal — many ways to use different metals, can use heat, lasers, electron beams
- Stereolithography — uses resin that is layered and cured by lasers or lights
What kinds of 3D printing advancements have been made in medicine?
When it comes to 3D printing, we believe the possibilities are endless. Things that have been 3D printed—which are shaping the future of medicine—include prosthetics, tissues, pharmaceutical drugs, anatomical models, bone, heart valves, ear cartilage, medical equipment, synthetic skin, organs and more.