3D printing is poised to be a major advance in anatomy education. This is largely because anatomy educators can now produce high-quality bespoke models using commercially available 3D scanners. In our Journal of Anatomy article we show how these technologies can be used to produce relatively inexpensive anatomical replicas.
Thomas DB et al. (2016). 3D scanning and printing skeletal tissues for anatomy education. Journal of Anatomy doi: 10.1111/joa.12484.
We demonstrate these techniques using two specimens that are commonly used in anatomy education: the skeleton of a frog and the chondrocranium of a dogfish.
3D printing for anatomy education
Anatomical features in the frog skeleton that are identifiable in the 3D digital model. The original list of features is from De Iuliis & Pulera The Dissection of Vertebrates: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd ed. Academic Press (2010) .
Skull: Angulare, Annular cartilage, Dentary, Frontoparietals, Interpterygoid vacuities, Mandible, Maxilla, Mentomeckalian, Nasals, Orbits, Palatines, Parasphenoid, Premaxilla, Prootic, Sphenethmoids.
Post-cranial skeleton: Atlas, Carpals, Clavicle, Digits, Femur, Fibulare, Humerus, Iliac crest, Ilium, Manus, Metacarpals, Pectoral girdle, Pelvic girdle, Pelvis, Pes, Phalanges, Prehallux, Prepollex, Procoracoids, Pubis, Radio-ulna, Sacral vertebra, Scapula, Supra-scapula, Tibiale, Tibio-fibula, Transverse process, Urostyle, Vertebrae.
Figures mapping the anatomical features to the skeleton can be found in Thomas DB et al. (2016). 3D scanning and printing skeletal tissues for anatomy education. Journal of Anatomy doi: 10.1111/joa.12484. This article can be made available to educators on request from Dr Daniel Thomas.
Frog skeletons are useful for teaching about the ancient characters shared by all tetrapods, like pelvic girdles, as well as traits that are specific to frogs and toads, like the urostyle.
We scanned a cane toad (i.e. frog) skeleton with a laser-based system, an HD Desktop 3D laser scanner (Next Engine Inc.,Santa Monica, CA, USA) that included a scanning unit with eight 650 nm 10 mW lasers and two 3 megapixel CMOS cameras.
The frog skeleton is 77 mm from the anterior end of the skull to the posterior end of the pelvic girdle. Some dried muscle tissue between the lateral process of the vertebrae is evident in the 3D digital model.
3D scanning produced a high quality replica of the original frog skeleton specimen. Larger scale anatomical features (e.g. skull, vertebral column, limbs) are all well-resolved and correctly proportioned. Many finer-scale structures (e.g. digits) are also clearly visible in the 3D digital model, although the sutures between fused long bones (e.g. radius and ulna) are not distinct. The features that were not resolved in the 3D model were subtle and had low-relief.
The frog skeleton model is freely available for download and use in anatomy education.
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Where to download
A 3D print-ready version of the frog model in .obj format is available from two sources.
Journal of Anatomy
Supporting information to: Thomas DB et al. (2016). 3D scanning and printing skeletal tissues for anatomy education. Journal of Anatomy doi: 10.1111/joa.12484.
The model can be downloaded from the NZ Fauna collection on Sketchfab.com.
Cane toad (Rhinella marina) skeleton showing some anatomical features. A 3D print-ready model is available for download.