The U.S. military is reportedly investigating the possibility of using 3-D printing to help soldiers wounded during battle.
According to 3DPrint.com, Dr. James Mah, a clinical professor at the University of Nevada, spoke at a recent American Association for Advancement of Science Conference about 3D printing and how it could assist the U.S. military. He said the technology could allow the military to create virtual replicas of each solider. These replicas could be utilized as a “backup” in case of injury or loss of a limb.
“The idea is to image someone when they are in a healthy state so that the data is available if it’s needed at a later point,” Mah explained. “We have soldiers who get injured. They lose limbs and other tissues and it’s a challenge to reconstruct them in the field, but if they are imaged beforehand, you can send that over the internet and have a 3D printer in the field to produce the bone.”
The Blaze reported that the concept would require troops’ bodies to be scanned and images stored. The data and images would help doctors and surgeons develop 3-D printed prosthetic body parts should the soldiers ever become wounded in the field.
Medical students are already using the technology to assist them in their study of the human anatomy. Virtual operating tables allow them to dissect and operate without needing a real human body. The tables they use are created in a way similar to the method the military is looking at for wounded troops. According to experts, an exact replica of a human body can be made from an X-ray, MRI or ultrasound image. It is then engraved in the operating table and creates a virtual cadaver.
Doctors in the private sector have been developing 3D printed body parts for a few of years already. For example, in 2012 doctors used the technology to give a 2-year-old girl motion back in her arms. In another case in 2013, doctors created a virtual windpipe for a baby with a rare, life-threatening condition.
The U.S. military sees a real breakthrough on how troops would benefit from the technology. Professor Mah agrees with their opinion, saying “A variety of injuries can happen on the battlefield and repair is unfortunately a long process. The sooner you can get the replacement parts together the better.”