3-D Printing Saved This Man's Life

Thanks to advances in 3-D scanning and printing, a team of brain surgeons were able to save a man’s life.

Jan 26, 2014 at 8:31AM

In China, a 38-year-old man was suffering from chronic headaches and ended up being diagnosed with a meningioma saddle nodule, a brain tumor that surrounded a part of his central nervous system. In most cases, this type of tumor is often benign and asymptomatic, meaning the person never experiences symptoms. However, this case was especially complicated because the tumor was located very close to the the base of the patient's skull and surrounded his carotid artery and optic nerve. Surgery was the only option.

Tumor shaded in blue. Source: 3ders.org

Because this type of tumor has a high incidence of recurring if not fully removed, doctors developed a method to create a 3-D printable model using 3-D modeling software and CT scans. This approach eliminates the chances of encountering "blind corners" during surgery that can occur when only relying on CT scans. Using 3-D printed models allowed the doctors to map out the surgery more precisely than ever before, enabling a speedier recovery time, as well as lowering the risk of damaging surrounding tissues.

Doctors 3-D printed the patient's skull, the tumor, and the surrounding arteries, in exact proportion, and in differing materials to mimic what the surgeons would "feel" during the real surgery. Thankfully, the surgery turned out to be a success and the man was walking again after two days of recovery.

Skull Tumor Model

Multi-material 3-D printing mimicked what the doctors would encounter during real surgery. Source: 3ders.org

A world of possibilities
Multi-material 3-D printing has been around since 2007, when Stratasys' (NASDAQ:SSYS) Objet released the Objet500 Connex 3-D printer, but it wasn't until recently that the applications for multi-material 3-D printing have expanded beyond traditional prototyping.

Last month, an academic team unrelated to the surgery mentioned above from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, created an ultra-realistic multi-material 3-D printed brain model for aspiring surgeons to practice with. The model was printed on the Objet500 Connex and mimics the consistency of skin, bone, membranes, and even patient-specific tumors. Each model currently costs $600 to produce and can be used one time, allowing students and doctors to rehearse complicated surgeries. The video below shows a model brain being "operated" on.

Source: New Scientist

Not just for manufacturing
It's not every day that a technology like 3-D printing comes along and offers the potential to revolutionize not only how the world makes things, but also how we approach solving old problems in new ways. For this reason, 3-D printing will likely become an increasingly important technology in many facets of our lives in ways we cannot fully imagine. Today, 3-D printing is helping brain surgeons get better, improving the quality of health care, and saving lives along the way. Tomorrow, there's an exciting world of new and unknown possibilities.

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

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KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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