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Team 3D Prints Child's Head, Brain

The head looks extremely realistic. Also, 3D printing metal, on a desktop.

Desktop Metal 3D Printing

Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal wants to make metal 3D printing more accessible to manufacturers and engineers. This week, the company took a big step towards its goal when it launched two new systems, including a desktop version. Which sounds odd, because when I think metal 3D printing, I think $1 million clean room.

 The company launched the DM Studio and DM Production 3D printing systems, and both look capable of disrupting the market.

The Desktop Metal Studio System starts at $49,900, which is approximately 10x less expensive than existing technology. According the company, that price gets you the printer, but if you want the microwave-enhanced sintering furnace, which is not desktop friendly, and the debinder, it will cost around $120K.

The DM Studio System uses a proprietary process called Bound Metal Deposition (BMD), which is similar to FDM technology.

The company also launched the DM Production System, which uses proprietary Single Pass Jetting (SPJ) technology, and is 100 times faster than today’s laser-based additive manufacturing systems, according to the company.

The Production System promises to reduce cost-per-part and even be competitive with mass production techniques like casting, though it will cost you more.

Since its inception in October 2015, Desktop Metal has raised $97 million in funding.

Team 3D Prints 14-Year-Old's Head, Brain

We know that 3D printing is making a significant impact on the medical industry. Last week, we saw how Duke University added custom 3D-printed knee implants to a list of 3D printed parts that already includes new hips, cranial meshes, and vertebrae. Aside from implants, 3D printing is also used to help train medical professionals, particularly surgeons.

In the past, companies have 3D printed hearts and other medical models for surgeons to train on before they step into the parlor for the real deal, but the biggest concern was realism. They were working on models, which were still a big step down from cadavers, the preferred way to train, but bodies are scarce, expensive, and not reusable.

To develop a new solution, a team of computer engineers and neurosurgeons from Johns Hopkins worked with special effects experts to create a lifelike 3D simulator. The simulator is designed to teach surgeons how to perform a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure to treat hydrocephalus, an extremely rare condition in which fluid builds up in cavities deep within the brain.

The research team created a lifelike, anatomically correct, full-size head and brain that actually feels like human skull and brain tissue. It’s actually a full-scale reproduction of a 14-year-old child's head that was modeled after a real patient. It has an electronic pump to reproduce flowing cerebrospinal fluid and brain pulsations. One version of the simulator is so realistic that it has facial features, hair, eyelashes and eyebrows.

Further tests are needed to see if it actually improves surgeon performance, but it has so far received rave reviews. It also opens the door to surgeons being able to operate on a patient before he/she is ever on the table.

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