AM in the time of COVID-19Medical Models

Belfast doctors study COVID-19 effects with 3D printed lung model

Though you’d be hard pressed to find a person that hasn’t heard about COVID-19, much is still not known about the virus, especially about its long-term effects on the human body. As part of ongoing research into how the virus will impact patients that have recovered from it, Axial3D and the respiratory team at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have reproduced a scale 3D lung model of a COVID-19 patient using 3D printing.

The 3D printed model is based on CT scans taken on the 14th day of a patient’s infection and clearly demonstrates how their lungs have been affected by the virus. Specifically, the 3D model makes it easy to visualize the inflammatory pus and scarred tissue that formed in the lungs’ airways, preventing the normal flow of oxygen to the lungs. Thankfully, the patient in question has survived, but the purpose of 3D printing the lung model was to try and better understand the long-term damage caused by COVID-19.

Axial3D COVID-19 lung model

The 3D printed model was printed using Formlabs‘ Form 3 printer with support from AWS. The detailed model was printed in eight parts, which were assembled using carefully placed magnets. By printing the anatomical model in several pieces, Axial3D made it simpler to see the model from a range of perspectives. The physical 3D model makes it easier for the Belfast research team – and specifically Radiologist Dr. William Loan – to study the effects of the virus on the lungs, leading to faster discussions and planning. On the other hand, the model facilitates showing non-medical professionals how the virus manifests and, interestingly, how radiologists study patient pathologies.

“When discussing COVID-19 with a radiologist, we suggested 3D printing the lungs,” explained Roger Johnston, CEO at Axial3D. “He sent us some sets of CT scans, and we printed them in our Formlabs 3D print lab. We now have this incredible result, where we are now able to visualize lungs, like they have never been seen before. We’ve been able to provide the team with a completely new way of viewing and understanding the long term effects from the infection.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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