Preliminary experience with medical applications of rapid prototyping by selective laser sintering

Med Eng Phys. 1997 Jan;19(1):90-6. doi: 10.1016/s1350-4533(96)00039-2.


Rapid prototyping techniques, originally developed for building components from computer aided designs in the motor industry, are now being applied in medicine to build models of human anatomy from high resolution multiplanar imaging data such a computed tomography (CT). The established technique of stereolithography and the more recent selective laser sintering (SLS), both build up an object layer by layer. Models have applications in surgical planning, for the design of customised implants and for training. Preliminary experience of using the SLS technique for medical applications is described, addressing questions regarding image processing, data transfer and manufacture. Pilot models, built from nylon, included two skills (a child with craniosynoslosis and an adult with hypertetorism) and a normal femur which was modelled for use in a bioengineering test of an artificial hip. The dimensions of the models were found to be in good agreement with the CT data from which they were built-for the child's skull the difference between the model and the CT data was less than 1.0 +/- 0.5 mm in each direction. Our experience showed that, with care, a combination of existing software packages may be used for data conversion. Ideally, image data of high spatial resolution should be used. The pilot models generated sufficient clinical interest for the technique to be pursued in the orthopaedic field.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Engineering / instrumentation
  • Biomedical Engineering / methods
  • Cephalometry / instrumentation
  • Cephalometry / methods
  • Craniosynostoses / pathology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Femur / anatomy & histology
  • Hip Prosthesis
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Infant
  • Lasers*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods