News Details

SLS Technology Helps Surgeons Change Faces

Australian Craniofacial

Established in 1975, the Australian Craniofacial Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia treats patients who require reconstructive surgery for birth defects, disease or injury to the skull or face.  The unit has achieved national recognition as a Centre of Excellence in its field, and is one of a few in the world that provides an holistic approach to patient care.

Formero’s Challenge

Formero was approached by the Australian Craniofacial Unit at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide to produce a medical model of a patients skull.  The Craniofacial Unit provided a CD full of stacked 2D X-ray images, commonly known as a CT scan and unlike any Formero had come across before. 

Taking up the challenge, Formero's Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technician, Chris Murray's first hurdle was to translate the many 2D images to a single 3D file, this required significant research.  Traditionally, the process of converting CT Scans would take considerable time, but with Formero's advanced techniques print ready CAD data and SLS models were produced in days, instead of weeks.  Surgeons are now able to have invaluable information for time critical operations within days of providing the images to Formero.

                                                           Converting 2D CT scan data into a 3D Model
 2D CT Scan data coverted 3D model

Key Learning's 

When pondering the process of converting 2D CT Scan data into a 3D Model, understanding can be aided by considering the strong correlation in theory between the two technologies.  A CT Scan is essentially a scan of an object that's been sliced into 2D "layers."  Whereas 3D Printing, and SLS itself, are a group of technologies that fabricate an object by depositing 2D layers on top of each other successively; A CT Scanner slices something, a 3D Printer reconstructs those slices.

The processes and technology progressed to a point where Formero's SLS Models have become a critical reference for hospitals and surgeries.  Upon receiving the data, the 2D Images are extracted, ordered and passed through Formero's medical imaging software.  A technician then makes a calculation for relative tissue density and segments the required tissue into its own 3D Model, its geometry based on "real world' parameters that were set with the scan itself.  The Skull is then fabricated by one of Formero's SLS machines under expert supervision by their experienced staff.

SLS technology allows for unlimited complexity, internal and external.  The tough nylon takes the rigors of surgical planning, testing and cutting admirably, and also imparts a slight light diffusive quality to the part, much in the way real bone does. Most importantly, it allows for a rapid response to a time critical event.

Formero would like to acknowledge Professor David J David AC for his outstanding leadership in creating the world renowned Australian Craniofacial Unit and the Cranio-Maxillo Facial Foundation as a means of raising funds to help children with deformed facial features and those injured through accidents and assaults.

Click here to read more about the Australian Cranio-Maxillo Facial Foundation and how your donation can change the life of a child forever.

  Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process                               See video of how each layer of the skull is built

SLS pocess building a human skull