Bringing colour to the beauty of anatomy


What do anatomy and 3D printing have in common? As the science that studies the shape and structure of the human body, over the centuries anatomy has been the basis of medical and scientific knowledge and remains the common thread running through the training and professional development of every doctor. The focus of this discipline is to investigate and consequently produce figurative representations of the morphology of the human body, with a degree of realism and accuracy that has played – and continues to play – a crucial role in ensuring effective teaching and the dissemination of anatomical knowledge. And this is precisely where 3D printing comes in as a state-of-the-art technology that could mark a turning point in the anatomical representation of the human body.

Due to a number of critical issues, such as the perishable nature of corpses and legal complications, the practice of dissection – the main method of anatomical investigation that has allowed us to gain knowledge and produce an iconographic representation of the structures of the human body – has become increasingly less practical. Not only was it impossible to take part in anatomical dissection practice sessions (still the best tool available to learn about the morphology of the human body), but the iconography used (albeit based on photographs that showed realistic anatomical details and watercolours of great artistic value, despite relying on a schematic representation of anatomical structures), remained flat and static, and therefore not very usable. “For people who study anatomy or practise medicine, the opportunity to see the real light and colours of an anatomical specimen, and to test its consistency and relationship with the surrounding structures, can really make a difference”, says Giacomo Gelati, Doctor & Resident at the University of Florence.

The team from the University of Florence and Bompan therefore worked together to 3D print a first organ – a heart – using the Mimaki 3D UV LED 3DUJ-553 printer. This 3D printer is distinguished by the use of colour profiles and a UV-LED curing method, which allow a range of over 10 million colours to be reproduced – in CMYK 4-colour, white and transparent – with photographic quality. The result of this pilot project was very positive and encouraging: Mimaki’s printer allowed a three-dimensional heart to be produced with good dimensions and detail definition, and above all excellent colour fidelity.

According to the team at the University of Florence, 3D printing can effectively contribute to transforming the world of teaching and medical-scientific research. “We are still at an early stage, but we are confident that we are on the right track. We have the opportunity to replace anatomical models and plastinated anatomical parts – both of great value, but delicate, perishable and therefore only usable in certain contexts – with 3D printed anatomical pieces, available to universities, research institutes, hospitals and clinics”.

Andrea Ferrante, 3D Specialist at Bompan comments: “We are excited about this collaboration with the team at the University of Florence. This project demonstrates and confirms the superior qualities of our 3D printing technology: the 3DUJ-553 printer has proved to be the most suitable solution, in fact the only one capable of achieving high colour fidelity and consistency, as well as an ultra-realistic definition of the details required for these applications. We are convinced that this technology will be widely used in a variety of different fields and the opportunities will be boosted by the imminent arrival of the 3DUJ-2207 – a version with a more compact and more accessible design but equipped with the same technology as the 3DUJ-553”.

View the full article: Mimaki 3D printing brings colour to the “beauty” of anatomy