3D printing stalwart Stratasys Ltd. (Nasdaq: SSYS) has partnered with Siemens Healthineers to advance medical imaging phantoms used in computed tomography (CT) imaging. The partnership aims to harness 3D printing to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of medical imaging.
CT phantoms are essential instruments in medical imaging, widely used in hospitals across the globe. These specialized devices are crucial for testing and confirming the effectiveness of CT scanners. Crafted to replicate specific aspects of human anatomy, phantoms play a key role in evaluating essential parameters such as the radiation dose and the clarity of images produced. This process is necessary for calibrating the scanners and maintaining their reliability and consistent performance.
Stratasys and Siemens Healthineers will be using Stratasys’ PolyJet machines to 3D print CT phantoms from Stratasys unique radiopaque RadioMatrix material. Key to the endeavor is a sophisticated algorithm from Siemens Healthineers that translates scanned patient images into specific material characteristics with radiopacity that matches human anatomy. All of this combined will enable the creation tailored phantoms with ultra-realistic human anatomy characteristics and precise radiographic accuracy of patient-specific pathology, something not previously achievable.
This partnership is set to transform the usage of phantoms in the medical field. In some cases, it might even allow device manufacturers and academic facilities to replace human cadavers with 3D printed structures. This shift promises significant efficiencies and a reduction in human variability. The research will provide crucial data, fostering advancements in CT system algorithms, materials development, and unveiling new application areas and research opportunities.
“The current limitations of imaging phantoms have been a longstanding challenge for the radiology community,” said Erez Ben Zvi, Vice President Medical at Stratasys. “This partnership with Siemens Healthineers will enable us to jointly explore the vast possibilities of our radiopaque materials and 3D printing technologies to overcome these barriers.”
The project will begin with the production of 3D printed phantoms for smaller-scale anatomies, like the head and neck region, and will gradually scale up to include larger and more complex anatomies. The first phase aims to 3D print a heart model and an entire human torso with complete radiographic accuracy.
This novel development is only the latest in 3D printing for advanced medical applications being pursued by a nexus of companies. Ricoh, which is quickly making moves in the healthcare 3D printing sector, has an ongoing collaboration with Stratasys and Axial3D centered on increasing access to 3D printed anatomic medical models. The partnership combines Ricoh’s precision AM services, Axial3D’s Segmentation-as-a-Service solution, and Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology to streamline the process from medical scan to 3D printed model, making it faster and more accessible for healthcare providers.
Meanwhile, Ricoh also recently announced a partnership with Materialise, dedicated to making 3D printing more accessible and efficient in hospitals. By leveraging Ricoh 3D for Healthcare, a HIPAA-compliant and ISO 13485-certified medical manufacturing center, the collaboration intends to aid hospitals in establishing or expanding their on-site 3D printing facilities. Materialise’s expertise in 3D printing software solutions plays a crucial role in enhancing user experience and broadening access to vital medical tools like customized anatomic models.
Given the utility of patient-specific 3D printed implants, models, and devices, the medical field was one of the quickest to adopt additive manufacturing (AM). Now that that adoption is becoming more widespread, we’re seeing the development of niche areas for the technology. This is most demonstrated by Stratasys’s partnership with Siemens. Those outside of the medical space may never have considered the use of AM for calibrating CT machines, but now that it is happening, we’re sure to see a significant evolution in the radiography field that will lead to further niche applications.