Professor Uses MakerBot For Human Inner Ear Models

Posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Speaking of super serious things, look at this great model of a human inner ear, uploaded to Thingiverse by a neuroscientist under the name neurothing. He signs things in real life under the name Seth Horowitz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology at Brown University.

We have seen some great stuff on Thingiverse in the realm of anatomical models, like Dr. Nicholas Giovinco’s Human foot and Botfarm88’s Spinal Column, and this is a sweet addition. First of all, it shows that you can make great anatomical models on The Replicator. Seth told me in email that he “always hated having to pay $$$ for anatomical models; given the quality of The Replicator, I’ve started kicking out the jams on my anatomical model building.”

Aortic Bifurcation by Cbonsig


Secondly, it shows that you can make things that don’t necessarily have a strong flat face. This model has at most three small points that attach to the build platform, but with a raft and outside support (these are clickable settings within our software Replicator G), you can find a good orientation. Although, Dr. Horowitz does warn that there may only be one good orientation.

The good doctor notes in the Thingiverse page for this model that he used five-count-’em-five shells. For those who don’t know, a shell is the outer layer of the thing you are trying to make, the skin, and you can just add shells at will without having to model them. Five is a lot, but Seth says he can make the inner ear model consistently with 5 and 3 wasn’t cutting it. When you’re doing something new that no one else has done, there may be a little trial and error, but luckily it only costs a few cents of plastic and a little time.

In this fantastically well-written piece on MAKE, Seth mentions that he sees 3D printing as a form of data actualization. The data for this model came from this page, which presents it as a .vrml file usable in Rhino3D. However, it is possible to turn DICOM files, as he explains:

I can create models from DICOM data pretty easily using ImageJ (the NIH’s free image/volume modelling program – steep learning curve but very flexible –  ImageJ will import the files; then you use the ImageJ 3D viewer plugin ( that takes the stack and allows you to view surface models which can then be saved as wavefront (.obj) files that can be opened in Rhino and turned into .stl files (usually after a lot of cleanup).  It’s all very doable with some practice

In the same piece on MAKE, he goes into more depth about how the first application he used a MakerBot for: a setup to hold live bats in place for experiments. I noticed that he was doing this on a MakerBot Cupcake CNC, and now we know he has graduated to The Replicator. Glad to have  you along for the ride, Seth.


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2 Comments so far

  • Can you hear me now?
    July 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    […] More details from the blog. […]

  • Jerry
    August 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Andrew, You need to look at the work of the Whitesides group at Harvard. They do much more sophisticated modeling of biological processes using 3D printers. Their work on camouflage in soft machines, where the robots are made using 3D printer, has just been published in Science.

    This inner ear model is extraordinarily amateur in comparison.


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