From Slices to Spaces – 3D printing in healthcare

  • „From slices to spaces – The epistemic, aesthetic and material impact of three-dimensional visualizations and bio-models for diagnostics, planning and therapy and its impact on medical education“ was a joint research project of Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Cordoba.
  • The project was funded from 2017 to 2018 by Ministry Of Science of Argentina, Department of Technology And Productive Innovation im Rahmen des Programa De Cooperacion Cientifico-Tecnologica Argentino-Alemana, Centro Tomas Maldonado
  • Research team: Kathrin Friedrich, Victor Defago, Santiago Fernández, Gabriel Massano.

Project obective: Current clinical practice and education heavily rely on the visualisation of threedimensional structures, i.e. patients’ bodies, in the form of two-dimensional slices. Imaging technologies such as computed tomography (CT) or magnet resonance imaging (MRI) gather volumentric data which is then visualised as tomographic images that can only tentativly reveal the spatial structure of the body. Therefore, physicians need to rely on their visual expertise and imagination to practically bridge the gap between tomographic slices and the bodily spaces they literally handle, e.g. during surgery. This not only requires a profound and enduring training but also includes a risk for failures when ‘flat’ images are not adaequatly translated onto the patients’ bodies and thereby might cause irritations and practical errors.

In a joint research project conducted in Berlin and Cordoab both teams investigated the problems between 2D and 3D visualization techniques including stereoscopic visualizations (such as virtual reality systems), printing techniques (such as 3D-printing in bio modeling) and projection techniques (such as holograms or augmented reality techniques). As 3D-printing of prototypes and 3D-imaging technology has become increasingly available and affordable, the goal of both teams was to evaluate and further develop practice and learning in medicine, that provide alternatives to 2D structures in volumetric data, whether images or tangible objects. In this context, the collaborative project aims to investigate the use and implementation of these new technologies as a resource for both medical practice and higher medical education.