A systematic evaluation of medical 3D printing accuracy of multi-pathological anatomical models for surgical planning manufactured in elastic and rigid material using desktop inverted vat photopolymerization

Med Phys. 2021 Jun;48(6):3223-3233. doi: 10.1002/mp.14850. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Purpose: The dimensional accuracy of three-dimensional (3D) printed anatomical models is essential to correctly understand spatial relationships and enable safe presurgical planning. Most recent accuracy studies focused on 3D printing of a single pathology for surgical planning. This study evaluated the accuracy of medical models across multiple pathologies, using desktop inverted vat photopolymerization (VP) to 3D print anatomic models using both rigid and elastic materials.

Methods: In the primary study, we 3D printed seven models (six anatomic models and one reference cube) with volumes ranging from ~2 to ~209 cc. The anatomic models spanned multiple pathologies (neurological, cardiovascular, abdominal, musculoskeletal). Two solid measurement landing blocks were strategically created around the pathology to allow high-resolution measurement using a digital micrometer and/or caliper. The physical measurements were compared to the designed dimensions, and further analysis was conducted regarding the observed patterns in accuracy. All of the models were printed in three resins: Elastic, Clear, and Grey Pro in the primary experiments. A full factorial block experimental design was employed and a total of 42 models were 3D printed in 21 print runs. In the secondary study, we 3D printed two of the anatomic models in triplicates selected from the previous six to evaluate the effect of 0.1 mm vs 0.05 mm layer height on the accuracy.

Results: In the primary experiment, all dimensional errors were less than 1 mm. The average dimensional error across the 42 models was 0.238 ± 0.219 mm and the relative error was 1.10 ± 1.13%. Results from the secondary experiments were similar with an average dimensional error of 0.252 ± 0.213 mm and relative error of 1.52% ± 1.28% across 18 models. There was a statistically significant difference in the relative errors between the Elastic resin and Clear resin groups. We explained this difference by evaluating inverted VP 3D printing peel forces. There was a significant difference between the Solid and Hollow group of models. There was a significant difference between measurement landing blocks oriented Horizontally and Vertically. In the secondary experiments, there was no difference in accuracy between the 0.10 and 0.05 mm layer heights.

Conclusions: The maximum measured error was less than 1 mm across all models, and the mean error was less than 0.26mm. Therefore, inverted VP 3D printing technology is suitable for medical 3D printing if 1 mm is considered the cutoff for clinical use cases. The 0.1 mm layer height is suitable for 3D printing accurate anatomical models for presurgical planning in a majority of cases. Elastic models, models oriented horizontally, and models that are hollow tend to have relatively higher deviation as seen from experimental results and mathematical model predictions. While clinically insignificant using a 1 mm cutoff, further research is needed to better understand the complex physical interactions in VP 3D printing which influence model accuracy.

Keywords: Form 3B; additive manufacturing; anatomic models; elastic material; inverted vat polymerization; medical 3D printing; model accuracy; rapid prototyping; vat photopolymerization.

MeSH terms

  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*