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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

3D printing changes shape of anatomy learning

BSMS > About BSMS > News > 2016 > 3D printing changes shape of anatomy learning

3D printing changes shape of anatomy learning

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is being used to enhance medical students’ learning, by allowing them to take away printed ‘body parts’ that they are studying in dissection sessions. BSMS creates the colourful 3D prints after taking a very high-res CT scan of a donor.

“Learning anatomy is clearly a three-dimensional experience. While our students have the advantage of being able to use dissection of donors to learn about the body, this is obviously limited to a highly regulated laboratory and nothing is to be removed. We know our students study at all hours and the 3D prints enable them to consolidate their knowledge at home after the main teaching sessions,” says Head of Anatomy, Dr Claire Smith.

“Repeated exposure to and exploration of 3D is vital for learning. Our students can spend time at home analysing their 3D models with the help of instructional videos provided by the medical school, and then apply this learning to patients in the hospital or surgery.”

Medical student Patrick Tano, who is in his second year at BSMS, says: “Textbooks are great but everything is in 2D which makes it hard when you’re working with something that is three dimensional, like the human body. The 3D models have helped me a lot, especially with our module on the heart as it allowed me to revise the content we covered in the dissection room at home in my own time. I found it most useful when trying to learn the blood vessels on the heart itself, so was able to follow the vessels as they wrap and divide round the heart. 3D models helped to visualise and understand their arrangements in space, which I found came in handy in both the VIVA and the knowledge test.”

The school bought the Makerbot Replicator 3D printer in May 2015. Low-cost prints were sold to students as a trial from September 2015, and proving to be a huge success have been made fully available to new medical students starting this term. The 3D prints continue to sell well, with a 70% uptake from students. Models sell for around £5-£10, with any profits going back into developing the next set of prints.