3D printing plastics have helped copy the biological form in many ways including biomimicry and prosthetics. Reinventing the human form in particular has a lot of medical applications. These can include anatomical models that provide novel, new research opportunities. One such case is Marie, a life-size printed human body derived from 5 full-body scans of different women. Marie could immensely aid in the various cancer treatment projects and possibly more in the future.
The mind behind Marie is Meagan Moore from Louisiana State University (LSU). She created the model as a means of researching the efficacies of radiation therapy as part of the Phantom Project. “Phantoms have been used in medical and health physics for decades as surrogates for human tissue,” Moore said. “The issue is that most dosimetric models are currently made from a standard when people of all body types get cancer. No personalized full-body phantoms currently exist.”
While five-foot-one-inch tall, it weighs just 15 pounds. Marie represents a major improvement on current phantoms, which can cost up to $40,000. Additionally, current phantoms also often don’t have limbs and aren’t representative of every body type. Marie, on the other hand, took $500 to create out of bioplastics and presents a model where doctors, through the use of 3D printing, personalise it to suit various female body types. Additionally, due to the use of the bioplastics, Marie has 36-gallon water storage capacity for up to eight hours.
Creating a life-size printed human body can take 136 hours to print. Moore printed the four sections that comprise Marie on the BigRep printer in LSU’s Atkinson Hall. She procured the scans of the various women from Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She also employed the use of a water retaining bioplastic so as to establish varying densities similar to a potential patient.
“I specifically wanted to work with a woman because, in science, women typically aren’t studied because they’re considered complex due to a variety of reasons,” Moore said. “I want a person with the most complex geometry.”
As previously mentioned, Moore combined the 4 pieces with a combination of soldering, friction stir welding and sandblasting. She also hammered and chiseled portions to take off chunks of plastic without damaging the whole body. She then tested the water retention by pouring 36 gallons of water into Marie to see if Marie could hold that weight for 4 1/2 hours. Moore then improvised by using a PVC pipe to catch the “dribbles” that were coming out of some areas. The project also received help from UW and Oregon Health and Science University, who developed a coffin for Marie for safe transportation.
Moore talks about the genesis of the project as part of her inter-disciplinary approach to creating the life-size printed human. “This project started from the art perspective, then became science,” said Moore. She originally wanted to double major in art and science before discovering BAE. “I love talking about the interface between art and engineering because I think it’s really important for how I exist in the realm of science in a lot of ways.”
Featured image courtesy of LSU, retrieved via their website.