The technique for 3D printing patient-specific models for auricular reconstruction

Roberto L. Flores, Hannah Liss, Samuel Raffaelli, Aiza Humayun, Kimberly S. Khouri, Paulo G. Coelho, Lukasz Witek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Currently, surgeons approach autogenous microtia repair by creating a two-dimensional (2D) tracing of the unaffected ear to approximate a three-dimensional (3D) construct, a difficult process. To address these shortcomings, this study introduces the fabrication of patient-specific, sterilizable 3D printed auricular model for autogenous auricular reconstruction. Methods A high-resolution 3D digital photograph was captured of the patient's unaffected ear and surrounding anatomic structures. The photographs were exported and uploaded into Amira, for transformation into a digital (.stl) model, which was imported into Blender, an open source software platform for digital modification of data. The unaffected auricle as digitally isolated and inverted to render a model for the contralateral side. The depths of the scapha, triangular fossa, and cymba were deepened to accentuate their contours. Extra relief was added to the helical root to further distinguish this structure. The ear was then digitally deconstructed and separated into its individual auricular components for reconstruction. The completed ear and its individual components were 3D printed using polylactic acid filament and sterilized following manufacturer specifications. Results The sterilized models were brought to the operating room to be utilized by the surgeon. The models allowed for more accurate anatomic measurements compared to 2D tracings, which reduced the degree of estimation required by surgeons. Approximately 20 g of the PLA filament were utilized for the construction of these models, yielding a total material cost of approximately $1. Conclusion Using the methodology detailed in this report, as well as departmentally available resources (3D digital photography and 3D printing), a sterilizable, patient-specific, and inexpensive 3D auricular model was fabricated to be used intraoperatively. This technique of printing customized-to-patient models for surgeons to use as ‘guides’ shows great promise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-943
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • 3D Imaging
  • 3D Printing
  • Patient Specific
  • Reconstruction
  • Surgical Tools
  • Techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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