Kyle Tallakson, Colorado State University Mechanical Engineering major, is building a 3D printed spinal fusion in the Idea2Product lab for his Advance Additive Manufacturing Engineering, MECH 502. “The original project was to create a spinal fusion model. We took a CT scan (Computerized Tomography scan) and made it into a 3D model,” Tallakson said. Tallakson is working on the project with a team. “I got the CT scan from the hospital after an accident I had a couple years ago,” Tallakson said. Tallakson was hit by a car going down Elizabeth Street in Fort Collins, CO and split his kidney in half. “They threw me in a CT scan just to see if I was bleeding internally or if I had any other broken bones.” Luckily Tallakson had no other broken bones from the accident.
Tallakson was able to request the CT Scan for free from the hospital and then used 3D Slicer, an open source software platform for medical image informatics, image processing, and three-dimensional visualization, to separate each vertebra and manipulate which parts I wanted and then put them all together in Meshmixer. “I thought this would be the best project we were going to have.” Dr. Prawel showed the students in MECH 502 a titanium insert that goes in between the vertebrae. What happens is the bone starts to grow into that titanium insert and we thought it would be cool if we could show what a spinal fusion is.” I decided to print my [spine] and my other group members are printing the intervertebral discs. “So we pulled out the disc and putting in a new fusion cage, and then put a plate on top of it.” Tallakson explained how he wanted it to be able to flex and move like a real vertebrae.
The model was printed on I2P’s two-headed 3D printer so the spinal cord could be printed with TPE (Thermoplastic elastomers) and the vertebrae with ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). In the future he wants to print with I2P’s Stratasys inkjet printer so he can get higher resolution and smaller feature size. The current model is only at a 50% scale of the actual CT scan. This project could help doctors and instructors in the future show patients and students a hands on model of what a spinal fusion will look like, even on their own spine. The Idea2Product lab is already taking steps to helping doctors and teachers with a converting DICOM files to 3D printable object files workshop.