Idea to Implementation: Talent Allocation in 3D Printing for Pre-surgical Applications

Idea to Implementation: Talent Allocation in 3D Printing for Pre-surgical Applications

Hui Jenny Chen, MD and Michelle Gabriel, MS, MBA
(This blog is adapted from our A Roadmap from Idea to Implementation: 3D Printing for Pre-Surgical Application: Operational Management for 3D Printing in Surgery)

Currently, most medical centers rely on individuals who are 3D printing enthusiasts. These staff members are motivated and capable of learning new skills, often on their own time without additional compensation. Over time, as the demand for 3D printing increases, many centers will find themselves exhausted of manpower. Ultimately, letting hobbyists man the 3D printing center is not viable for a professional operating facility. To provide reliable 3D printing services consistently, talent allocation needs to be addressed. Typical skills necessary for staffing such center include the following:

a. Basic medical imaging knowledge: Knowing if the quality of the images acquired is adequate for 3D printing is crucial. This will require staff to understand the imaging protocol and why certain images cannot be used for printing

b. Good CAD/3D software understanding: Training staff to use basic (and sometimes open-source) 3D printing processing software is time-consuming. Familiarity with 3D visualization software will make the learning curve much lower.

c. Understanding of 3D printing hardware: Basic maintenance is often required when working with 3D printers. Although an engineering degree is not necessary since most commercial printers are fairly user-friendly, understanding the basic mechanics is necessary for troubleshooting.

d. Basic medical knowledge: Having a basic understanding of the clinical case is important to produce high-quality prints, with more attention to clinically relevant aspects of the case. This should also lead to better quality control of the final product.

Within the medical community, radiologists and radiological technicians are currently equipped with these professional characteristics and have the lowest barrier to entry to staff a 3D printing center. Due to the high cost of hiring a dedicated physician, the best choice to staff these centers is a highly trained and experienced radiological technician who is well versed in 3D software.

Many larger imaging centers have dedicated imaging post-processing labs (“3D labs”), where the technologist’s main role is to use various visualization tools to create 3D images for various clinical purposes. These staff members are ideal for future 3D printing centers because of their experience with existing post-processing software. If the volume for 3D printed models does not reach a level where a full-time technologist is needed, many of the same staff members can also be productive in other areas of the department.

Idea to Implementation: Clinical Trials For 3D Printing Applications



  • I’m ready where do I apply. Over 20 years of RP/AM experience and a strong CAD/3D background and some medical understanding.