The 3D Printed Anatomy Series developed by Monash University is now available for sale. The kit first received wide-spread attention in mid-2014, publicised as having the potential to revolutionise the course of medical education.

The 3D Printed Anatomy Series is the product of the research effort of Monash University’s Centre for Human Anatomy Education, led by Professor McMenamin, and has been licensed for manufacture to German company, Erler Zimmer GmbH. The licensing arrangement will see Monash University receive a royalty payment for every product produced.

The series comprises products that cover all of the major body parts, including the limbs, face, skull, pelvis, and heart. Each piece is manufactured and retailed individually. The pieces have been developed by scanning real-life segments of the body through both MRI and CT scans in a layer-by-layer manner, and subsequently printed in 3D using plastic and plaster-like powder in high resolution and accurate colour depiction.

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Examples of products available in the 3D Printed Anatomy Series, taken from 3D Anatomy Series

Traditionally, cadavers have been used to educate students studying anatomy. However, the need for the kit arose from a shortage of cadavers, as well as the cost of correctly handling and storing the cadavers as a result of the strict regulations that govern where cadavers can be dissected. It is envisioned that the kit will find particular use in developing countries, where cadavers are not readily available, or are prohibited for cultural or religious reasons.

While the series contains no human tissue, the 3D printed pieces are of such a high level of detail that they will undoubtedly improve trainee doctor’s and other health professional’s knowledge of the human body. Professor McMenamin considers the detail to be comparable to that achieved through plastination, a technique developed by Gunther von Hagens that involves removing water and fats from human tissues and replacing them with polymers. Advantageously, the 3D printed pieces can be a manufactured at a fraction of the cost and time.

This application is yet another example of the successful commercialisation of 3D printing technology.