Orthopedic and maxillofacial surgeons sometimes prepare for surgery by creating physical models of 3D scans of bones that they need to work on. Such models are also useful in educating med school students, doctors, and patients. However, these models tend to be very expensive, usually seen only in well-funded research projects or used by expensive medical professionals. Oftentimes, because the cost of the model is so high, a compromise must be made, so the resulting models end up being truncated or less than actual size.
Shapeways, a company that prints custom-designed 3D models, published a blog post about how Max Frame, an orthopedic surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland, managed to produce a full-size human pelvis for about $230, less than one-fifth the cost of a smaller, professionally made model.
He accomplished this by taking CT scans and importing them into two programs, one to fill in any gaps and eliminate any artifacts on the CT scan and the other to create a 3D surface render that Shapeways can read. After being sent to Shapeways, it took less than a week for Max to receive the models. According to Max, the models were verified and shown to be virtually identical to the bones in the CT scan. Moreover, the white plastic that composed the models proved to be a great bone analog in which to practice using regular orthopedic drills, screws, and saws.
Blog entry from Shapeways: 3D Printing Bone on a budget!