Point of Care 3D Printing

What is Point of Care 3D Printing?

Point of Care (POC) 3D printing generally refers to how 3D anatomical models are being used in clinical environments to aid in patient diagnosis, surgical planning, and communication. Recent years have seen an uptake in hospitals and other clinical settings of 3D printing technology for creating realistic models from patient data. When combined with other methods such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), surgeons and other medical professionals are able to enhance decision-making with a more comprehensive set of diagnosis and planning tools.

What are the benefits of Point of Care 3D Printing?

The main benefits of point of care 3D printing involve enhancing the number of options available for clinicians when working with patients. In particular, the growth of on-site 3D printing hubs and regulatory clearance for software and hardware combinations makes it easier for 3D anatomical models to be integrated into traditional workflows without significant delays. Physical models make it easier to visualize surgeries ahead of time, with prints capable of being used to simulate procedures before going into the operating room.

When dealing with complex surgical and diagnostic scenarios, 3D printed models offer an additional resource to explain and illustrate planning to colleagues and patients. As a complement to virtual models, physical models can be designed to accurately represent the touch and feel of anatomies, making it easier to reassure patients ahead of surgeries. In addition, models can be repurposed as hands-on teaching aids for trainee clinicians.

In terms of operational factors, point of care 3D printing can help to improve general problems for hospitals and other clinical settings, from reducing the risk of revision surgeries through personalized models, to increasing the choice of bioprinting options through different structures that are compatible with the human body. Entire patient workflows can therefore be made more customizable and scalable to a particular institution.

The uptake of 3D printing in these settings has been recognized at the regulatory level by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whereby devices and workflows can be factored into manufacturing and the development of new devices that incorporate printing, or that use it as part of validation workflows. Some more information on the current approach of FDA, and ongoing questions, can be found here.

How does Point of Care 3D Printing work?

Hospitals using point of care 3D printing may have an in-house hub with machines and technicians to produce their models or might outsource to a partner company that can turn around scans and models to specific deadlines. In both cases, the process typically begins with obtaining a 3D scan of the patient’s anatomy via methods such as MRI, X-ray CT, CT, or 3D ultrasound. The resulting image data can then be processed in software to segment, or isolate, regions of interest, and take measurements.

Synopsys Simpleware software, for example, includes a number of segmentation tools to process 3D image data, as well as to prepare files for a 3D printer by adding connectors, logos, colors, and other features. Before printing, the 3D models may be segmented into multiple surface parts representing different parts of anatomy, pathologies, and medical devices, and exported as STL files to a 3D printer. At this stage, surfaces might also be portioned to help with disassembly and reassembly. 3D printers receiving the data can then complete the final steps, such as support structures, before creating the final model using different materials and finishing processes.

About Synopsys Point of Care 3D Printing

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Where and when does Point of Care 3D Printing fit in the product portfolio?

Point of care 3D printing is established within Synopsys through Simpleware ScanIP Medical software, an FDA 510(k)-cleared and CE-marked product. The software has been validated with certain 3D printers to enable a complete workflow from 3D imaging to segmentation, measurements and landmarking, a combination of anatomical images with CAD models, and finally to export and printing. Synopsys has also recently partnered with Stratasys to help widen awareness and uptake of 3D printing in healthcare settings.

Going beyond Point of Care 3D Printing

While Point of Care 3D printing is a rapid and easily reproducible method for hospitals, additional options are also available for R&D by medical device manufacturers and those combining clinical practice with research. In this context, medical device manufactures use Simpleware software to test implant designs, export models for simulation of part performance, and to utilize AI-based automation tools to scale up analysis and production of 3D parts.

Putting Point of Care 3D Printing into Practice

Segmentation of breast tumor | Synopsys

3D heart model created in Synopsys Simpleware software and printed using a Stratasys J750 Digital Anatomy 3D printer

An excellent recent example of utilizing point-of-care 3D printing involved the Cardiovascular Surgery Advanced Projects Laboratory (APL) at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. The laboratory used a 3D printed model from CT scans of a teenage patient with an anomalous origin of the left coronary artery from the right sinus of Valsalva with the intramural, intraarterial course. Simpleware software and a Stratasys printer were used to prepare the model.


  1. Patient-specific CT data was obtained
  2. Simpleware software was used to automatically segment and add landmarks to the image data with a single click of a button (using Simpleware AS Cardio)
  3. The 3D printing toolkit in Simpleware software was employed to add support structures, a base platform, and embossed text for labeling, taking the total processing time to 15 minutes
  4. A Stratasys J750 Digital Anatomy 3D Printer was used to create the final model, including different colors established during the file preparation stage.
  5. The 3D printed model provided a resource for planning a subsequent surgery