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This Super-Realistic 3D Printed Body Is Helping Train Surgeons


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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The high level of realism will prepare doctors mentally, as well as physically. Nottingham Trent University

It might creep you out a bit, but this bald man could help save your life some day.

This lifelike 3D printed body is the latest tool to train surgeons to deal with emergency trauma surgery. By performing mock operations with such a high degree of realism, it’s hoped it can train doctors to cope with surgery, both practically and psychologically.


The project is a collaboration between Richard Arm from the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University, the Ministry of Defence's Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, and Professor Michael Vloeberghs, a neurosurgeon at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham, UK.

“Richard’s work shows how art and science can be combined to improve the way critical surgery is performed,” Professor Tilak Dias, a supervisor of the project, explained in a statement.

“By enhancing the learning experience of surgeons, we can ensure they are better prepared for real life situations where their skills and knowledge are relied upon to save people’s lives,” he added.

Richard Arm, lead designer on the project, with the realistic model. Nottingham Trent University


The model is crafted from silicone gel and fibers, with a similar texture to real-life skin, which can be slit open with a scalpel then seamlessly resealed. Inside the body, the model features lifelike simulations of the heart, lungs, and main vessels in the chest cavity. The researchers created the organs by conducting extensive CT scans to get a realistic and accurate replica of the organ’s structure.

Artificial blood can be pumped around the model to simulate the threat of blood-loss and the lungs can be ventilated to mimic the movement of a patient’s chest as they breathe.

My achy fakey heart. Nottingham Trent University

The team is now working on a way to reduce the costs of producing future models, while adding more organs, including the brain, eyes, stomach, pancreas, liver, and kidneys. The UK Ministry of Defense has already ordered two of the models for battlefield medical training, which they will start using in December 2017.


Colonel Peter Mahoney CBE, Emeritus Professor of Anaesthesia, Defence Medical Services, said: “This is a really exciting and innovative collaboration with Nottingham Trent University.

“The ability to place clinically realistic surgical and anaesthetic training models into simulations of austere military environments is of great value to military medicine.”


The cast for the model was based on an anonymous man. Nottingham Trent University


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