BY PAT BARRETT
There I was in the doctor’s office. I sat there as the good doc told me I needed an MRI to check out why my right eye was suddenly on the fritz. After I recovered from the initial shock, I thought (sadly enough), "Cool; I remember hearing you can convert MRI and CatScan files into STL data." After the MRI, I asked the tech if I could get a copy of the data. He happily obliged.
After a little googling, I found a package called Mimics made by Materialise Software This program allows users to clean up different scan layers to keep what they want. It then sweeps a volume around the periphery of the data. It took a little bit to get the convention down, but once I got going it was pretty easy to use. In the end, I was able to output a watertight solid model of my grey matter. Cool.
I imported the STL file into our ZEdit software and got it ready to print on our ZCorp 3D Printer. I slapped some imagery on the sides of the brain to give it a little flair, setup the machine and let it run. The entire print took a little over eight hours to build. The next morning I de-powdered and post processed my brain.
I’ve shown the model to a number of people now and the response varies from highly interested to "OK you can have it back now." Either way, who could have conceived when we were kids that one day we would live in an age when you could capture pictures of your brain without cracking open your skull, make a model on a computer of these pictures, then hit PRINT and hold a life size model of it in your hand the next morning. Sometimes we forget how impressive this technology really is.