Four-dimensional (4D) printing: a new evolution in computed tomography-guided stereolithographic modeling. Principles and application

Michael Park Chae, David James Hunter-Smith, Inoka Mali De Silva, Stephen Tham, Robert Spychal, Warren M Rozen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Over the last decade, image-guided production of three-dimensional (3D) haptic biomodels, or rapid prototyping (RP), has transformed the way surgeons conduct preoperative planning. In contrast to earlier RP techniques such as stereolithography, 3D printing has introduced fast, affordable office-based manufacturing. We introduce the concept of 4D printing for the first time by introducing time as the fourth dimension to 3D printing. METHODS: The bones of the thumb ray are 3D printed during various movements to demonstrate four-dimensional (4D) printing. Principles and validation studies are presented here. RESULTS: 4D computed tomography was performed using single volume acquisition technology to reduce the exposure to radiation. Three representative scans of each thumb movement (i.e., abduction, opposition, and key pinch) were selected and then models were fabricated using a 3D printer. For validation, the angle between the first and the second metacarpals from the 4D imaging data and the 4D-printed model was recorded and compared. CONCLUSION: We demonstrate how 4D printing accurately depicts the transition in the position of metacarpals during thumb movement. With a fourth dimension of time, 4D printing delivers complex spatiotemporal anatomical details effortlessly and may substantially improve preoperative planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458 - 463
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Reconstructive Microsurgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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