Pediatric neurosurgeon Ed Smith uses a 3-D printer to prepare for difficult surgeries. Days ahead of a surgery, Smith prints a model of the brain and tumor to be operated on so he can develop a tactile understanding of the procedure ahead. Clive Thompson, writing for WIRED’s Gadget Lab, quotes the neurosurgeon, “‘I can hold the problem in my hand,’ Smith says. ‘I can rehearse the surgery as many times as I want.’”
Using the printed model, Smith is able to examine the brain to gain insights he could not derive from typical scans: “‘You see these spatial relations and depth of field that aren’t possible onscreen,’ Smith says.” According to the article, the models work so well as a visualization tool that Smith has cut the time required for his surgeries by 12% on average.
The article goes on to explore other areas—including NASA research—in which printed objects can serve “as a way to understand data and solve problems.” We look forward to exploring more about how 3-D printing can provide new and efficient ways to solve supply chain challenges, perhaps with a similar form of modeling that enables a scaled, more tactile approach to problem-solving.