Medical models a surgeon’s blueprint

Senior development engineer David Guy (right) with polymer chemistry PhD David Morrison. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d407579
Senior development engineer David Guy (right) with polymer chemistry PhD David Morrison. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d407579

Tucked away in a north block building at Royal Perth Hospital, Mr Guy and polymer chemistry PhD David Morrison have combined cutting-edge 3D printing technology with surgical model construction to achieve award-winning results.

The RPH Department of Medical Engineering and Physics won first prize in the WA Printing Industries Craftsmanship Awards last month for its models of a 15-year-old patient’s severely scoliotic spine, a defective skull and surgical instrument.

Having worked as a biomedical engineer for more than three decades, Mr Guy said the arrival of the 3D printer five years ago had transformed his work.

‘It is wonderful to be able to introduce this technology and mix the old with the new,’ he said.

‘By using only the information from a CAT scan, we can build faithful models within one millimetre of the real thing.

‘Having this incredibly accurate model allows the surgeon to prepare the surgery in detail before he puts the scalpel to the skin. It’s so important for surgeons to hold and inspect the tangible reality of what he will be working on.’

Mr Guy said his next purchase would be a 3D printer that used multiple materials, such as a hairbrush with a plastic handle and rubber bristles.

‘When all is said and done, what drives me is the patient at the end of it all who has been suffering for a long time and will benefit from this work,’ he said.

‘Of course, we’re only a cog in the whole gearbox of the hospital, but it’s very satisfying.’