11 Jul 2013

…or how to 3D print your own brain.

I recently got hold of an MRI scan of my head. Not the sort of thing that’s easy to do for yourself! I volunteered at the MRC Brain Sciences Unit and asked (very) nicely.

If you get your hands on a Nifti file (.nii or .nii.gz), here are some fun things you can do with it.

View your brain in Mango

Mango is a great, free download for Windows, Mac or Linux. It allows you to see your head in translucent 3D; slice it any which way; extract, trace and render regions of interest.

Mango has plugins and I found the disconcertingly-named “Extract Brain” plugin useful for the next step.

To get a 3D model, you’ll need a different file format. This was a tricky bit.

3D print your brain!

I’m no expert here. But here’s how I did it. Seems most 3D printers work from .stl files. Mango doesn’t have a “Save as .stl” option.

To get one, I saved my ROI (region of interest) as a .nii.gz file (in Mango, go File > Save ROI…

Then, I used Slicer - a hugely powerful, and complicated, piece of software. If you thought Mango looked like it had a lot of options, wait until you see Slicer!

(I bodged my way through after reading “the open source palaeontologist” tutorials, but they are for an out of date version of Slicer.)

Once you’ve got a .stl file, you’re pretty much there.

Here’s mine.

And here it is, 3D printed.

My brain, 3D printed

Tags: brain