Skip to content

Converting DICOM Files to 3D Printable Object Files Workshop

Chris Geanious, Instructional Designer for Colorado State University’s, The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), and Jim Wise, Idea2Product Staff Member and Colorado State University Student, taught a workshop on March 23rd on how to convert Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) to a 3D printable format. DICOM is a standard for handling, storing, printing, and transmitting information in medical imaging. The presentation took about 12 minutes and left enough time for questions from the attendees. The workshop gave a chance for doctors and teachers to learn more about 3D printing and how it can be used in their daily professions.

The Idea2Product Lab has already worked with vets to print bones for practice before surgery. The doctors could do the proper procedure for the dog before the actual operation, this ensures both accuracy and speed of the surgery. Nik Radaev, I2P staff member, created the original data for the bone modeling used in the DICOM training. Here are some of the steps the lab uses to create 3D printable files from DICOM files received from doctors.

To convert the DICOM for 3D printing, the Idea2Product lab uses InVesalius, a software developed by the Brazilian government and it is free for Windows, GNU/Linux, and Apple. The first step is to convert your data DICOM model on InVesalius into a usable file by isolating the desired tissue type. The Mask Range is very important for this process because when you are 3D printing something you won’t be able to print bones and muscles and skin all at the same time. After you extract the data you need from those files, you will most likely have to clean up some of the floating sections of tissue to get a 3D printable part. The program Wise used to cover the “File Clean-up” process was with the program Meshmixer by Autodesk. Meshmixer will mark all holes and non-manifold surfaces as red because these portions will not be accepted by a slicing engine in the beginning of the printing process. The next “mandatory” step is to fix this by selecting the “Make Solid” option under “Edit.” “Make Solid” is fast but your print loses definition and becomes pixilated. To fix this, change “Fast” to “Accurate” and change the “Mesh Density” all the way up and then update. Once everything in your file is more defined, you can select portions in the model that you do not want in the final product. In case of inconsistencies in the medical data, you can use the “Robust Smooth” brush within the “Sculpt” tool. Some files may be too big to print all together so you will need to “Slice” the model into two halves so they can be printed separately and re-attached later. After your file has been edited, export the file as a .stl file which will then allow you to load into your preferred slicing software to print.

Chris Geanious and Jim Wise plan to put on more classes like this in the future. Stay up to date through our website, sign up to be part of our newsletter, or email us at to let us know you are interested. The Idea2Product lab also offers Intro to 3D printing classes once a week for users interested in using the lab on their own.