3D Printing Human Bones at Victoria University

3d printing bones

Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, uses Zortrax 3D printers to manufacture accurate three-dimensional models of human bones.

The models are used on osteopathy and other related courses to deliver a hands-on learning experience to students. This has increased pass rates from 89% to an incredible 99%, showing just how effective the technology can be.

“In anatomy, students get their hands-on experience with cadavers in labs. Time in the laboratory is limited and academics wanted to maximise student learning by extending hands-on learning experiences beyond the laboratory classes”, says Dr Sonia Wilkie, a technology enhanced learning designer at Victoria University. “3D printed bones could be used in standard classrooms, and we could make a set of bones for every student.”

3D Printing Bones

The idea was to use 3D printing to manufacture bones for every student. They wanted students to have the ability to work with the bones and take them home – something that was impossible with actual human bones (obviously). The team’s first idea was to outsource it, but the quotes they received were too high. 200 sets of bones worked out at an eye-watering $5,611.49 with one supplier, or $7,185.24 with another. Yikes.

3d printing human bones

And so, the team looked to bring production in-house. They downloaded upper limb bones from a public online repository. “We rescaled the models, changed the orientation and amount of support to maximise production and minimise the amount of filament required” says Ghaith Zakaria, Wilkie’s fellow enhanced learning designer.

The team invested in two Zortrax M200 3D printers. One 3D printer could print one set of bones in 8 hours. It was decided that two sets of bones in 8 hours was optimal. The team opted for Zortrax’ budget filament, Z-ABS, and put the printers to work right away.

3D Printing Results

The results were impressive right off the bat. The models didn’t need any post-processing and they were ready to go fresh from the print bed. The printers captured detail perfectly, creating true-to-design models for students to study.

3d printing human bones

The printers worked non-stop for 8 months to manufacture 200 sets of bones. 3D printing bones for 200 students cost the team just $300.00 (minus the investment in the 3D printers – these are capital assets that’ll claw their investment back).

“Now each osteopathy student gets his or her own set of bones to keep. They can work with them, practice on them, and take them home”, says Wilkie. “Anatomy will remain the field where 3D printed educational aids have the most profound impact. It’s such a hard subject to learn. We just need to get more 3D printers”, she concludes.

3D Printer: Zortrax M200 (x2) (now succeeded by the M200 Plus)

Material used: Z-ABS

This information was first published on the Zortrax website.