An anonymous reader writes: Michael Balzer, a former software engineer and Air Force technical instructor, found himself unsatisfied with a doctor's diagnosis of a small tumor behind his wife's left eye. Balzer had recently become proficient at creating 3D models, so he asked the doctor for the raw medical imaging data and took a look himself. In addition to correcting a later misdiagnosis, Balzer 3D printed models of his wife's cranium and helped neurosurgeons plan a procedure to remove the tumor, instead of waiting to see how it developed, like previous doctors had recommended. During the procedure, surgeons found the tumor was beginning to entangle her optic nerve, and even a six-month wait would have had dire consequences for her eyesight.
Medical researchers like Dr. Michael Patton believe this sort of prototyping will become "the new normal" in a very short time. "What you can now do through 3D printing is like what you’re able to do in the software world: Rapid iteration, fail fast, get something to market quickly. You can print the prototypes, and then you can print out model organs on which to test the products. You can potentially obviate the need for some animal studies, and you can do this proof of concept before extensive patient trials are conducted.