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If you’ve ever tuned in to ABC’s hit hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” you know that the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial are up against the most challenging cases every week – not only in the OR, but in their personal lives as well. With high stress and high stakes, some of the scrubs-donning stars are reluctant to accept help, though this week they were happy to take an assist from 3D printing.

Following last year’s premier appearance of the CubeX 3D printer, Grey’s most recent episode featured a custom anatomy model that was designed and 3D printed by 3DS. In full color and full detail, the model depicts a patient’s heart and liver along with a large mass growing throughout the structures.

Though 3DS has an entertainment division (Gentle Giant Studios), this model was the work of our highly experienced team at Medical Modeling, our medical solutions division. The reason for this was simple: this print was not only a prop, but a sample of a real, and dare we say “operable”, strategy in the medical world. 3D printing is used in hospitals around the world for everything from surgical pre-visualization (gathering physical information from patients' 2D scans) to treatment planning and training. For certain surgeries, 3D printing is even used to create custom surgical drill guides, for which our Medical Modeling division produces a host of engineering-based solutions for complex reconstructive surgical problems.

The mission given to Medical Modeling was a unique one: create an anatomically correct color model from a simple drawing in a matter of days. After receiving a photo of a concept drawing the show’s production team had sketched on the back of a napkin, our designers got to work creating a model that fit the script, was true to life, and was fully 3D printable. After each design iteration, the Grey’s production team reviewed, provided feedback, and the Medical Modeling team implemented edits in the organic sculpting software, Geomagic Freeform, until it was perfect.

The next step was printing the heart-lung combo on the ProJet 660Pro, our prima printer for full-color printing, and then getting it out the door to LA in time for the shoot. All in all, the process from napkin to printed model took approximately four days, and was the result of the skillful efforts of our dedicated team at Medical Modeling.

What are other situations in which a 3D printed model could facilitate a better, faster final outcome?