Marrying VR and 3D printing to prepare surgeons

I’ve written previously about an interesting new startup called EchoPixel who use virtual reality to help prepare surgeons for the operation they’re about to undertake.

The 3D creations can be examined via the zSpace platform, with surgeons able to fully manipulate the images, including dissecting them using a stylus device.  Indeed, should they require a fly-through of the colon, such functionality is available to them.

The company is continuing to innovate with the launch of 3D printing support that aims to marry their VR work with the ability to print accurate representations of each organ.

3D printing and VR

The service, called True 3D Print Support, consists of a suite of software tools that are designed to firmly embed 3D modeling as a key tool in the surgeons arsenal.  The software allows surgeons to both visualize and interact with the specific anatomy of the patient, with the organ then capable of being printed in 3D for testing and manipulation.

The idea is to allow physicians to interact with medical images in the same way as they would interact with real, physical objects.  DICOM datasets are converted first into life-size VR objects, and then if desired into physical, 3D printed objects.

“We believe there’s a revolution happening in 3D medical modeling, and it’s just getting started,” the company says. “3D printing is a game changing technology, but it’s not yet accepted as a widely effective clinical tool, primarily due to the cost and time restrictions.  EchoPixel’s Interactive Virtual Reality is a complementary technology that can enable truly effective 3D modeling for the first time. It has the potential to dramatically reduce time and cost investments, while increasing clinical accuracy and efficacy.”

It’s part of a growing trend that is seeing virtual and augmented reality move on from somewhat gimmicky consumer applications towards having serious professional applications.

Indeed, in the UK, the government has recently supported the launch of a brand new augmented reality lab to support growth in the area.  The facility, called the Augmentor, is run by a partnership of the Digital Catapult and Seedcamp, and aims to support early stage companies working in the field.

Each program will be ten-weeks long and provide the participants with both technical and business mentorship, as well as space and equipment at the Digital Catapult’s facility in central London.

“Immersive technologies are fast becoming a central part of the digital economy and there is a real demand for access to expertise and equipment in this space. Our new lab will help to provide businesses with access to state-of-the-art immersive technologies under one roof, providing a vital opportunity for them to refine their ideas and test products across the range of equipment on the market today,” the Digital Catapult say.

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