If you’re a 3D printing enthusiast, you can bring your ideas to life with a bit of technical know-how and a tabletop printer. But what about creating models based on real pictures? Is it possible to recreate your skull with 3D printing?
You can get a 3D print of your skull from a digital CT scan if you convert it into an STL file. The latest versions of many slicing software applications support CT scans and allow you to print your head and even your whole skeleton if you have a large 3D printer.
This article will explain how you can print a model of your skull with a 3D printer. I’ll also discuss how to import a CT scan and convert it to an STL file. In the end, you’ll also get a comparison of the best filaments that you can use to print a 3D skull.
How Can You Get a 3D Print of Your Skull?
To get a 3D print of your skull, you can:
- Get a cranium CT scan.
- Convert the CT scan into an STL file format.
- Input the printing settings into your slicer software.
- Feed-in the filament and start 3D printing.
So, let’s go through the steps together in more detail and get the job done!
1. Get a Cranium CT Scan
Depending on where you live, you can quickly obtain a cranium CT scan in a day or two. Still, you’ll have to go to a doctor, and if you are honest about your reasons for wanting a CT scan, your insurance probably won’t cover the cost.
Still, if you have ever had a CT scan in the past for medical reasons, the file is probably in your medical files at the institution where you had the procedure. You may be able to call for a copy of the file.
However, getting the soft file version may be challenging in some medical institutions. Your healthcare provider is obligated to give you medical information within 30 days in the US. However, you’ll usually get the scan in a day or two.
2. Convert the CT Scan Into an STL File Format
CT scans aren’t automatically compatible with 3D printer slicing software. You’ll first need to convert the scan into an STL file before transferring it to your CAD or slicing program.
Fortunately, there’s free software available online that converts a digital CT scan to STL file format.
To do so, you’ll have to follow the following steps:
- Convert the DICOM file to NRRD by following this tutorial.
- Upload the file to Democratiz3D. This is open-source software that can change medical files to STL printable files.
- Set the STL file parameters and download them.
- Use the STL file in Cura, Slic3r, or other slicing software.
This method is the simplest way to convert medical files to STL files, and the software is open source.
3. Input the Printing Settings in the Slicing Software
Once you have the correct file format, the next step is to input the settings based on the filament you’re using.
As you manipulate and clean up the print, you might also want to consider the size of your model. You may need to scale down the model if your head is too big to fit on your print bed.
4. Feed-In the Filament and Start Printing
You’re now ready to start printing if you’ve completed the previous steps. Input the temperature setting for the filament material, set the printing speed, and you’re ready to go.
Lastly, don’t forget to follow 3D printing safety guidelines and wait for the skull print to cool before you handle it.
Can You Print Your Skull With a Picture or 3D Scanner App?
You can’t print an accurate replica of your skull with a picture or 3D scan of your face since it’ll only scan your exterior features. However, you can use this to get a 3D impression of your face.
The only machine that can accurately scan your skull is a CT scanner since it takes a 3D X-ray of the skull. Even a regular x-ray will be one-dimensional, so you won’t be able to print it.
Nowadays, 3D scanning apps can take 3D scans of objects which you can then use in 3D printing. However, these scans will only produce a model of the object’s exterior, much like a statue.
What Material Can You Use to 3D Print Your Skull?
You can print a 3D version of your skull with materials such as ABS, PLA, PTEG, TPU, and almost any other filament. However, if you want the most detail, you may wish to print your skill with resin.
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of using these different filaments to 3D print your skull:
PLA is the most common filament used in non-industrial 3D printing. It’s highly versatile, abrasive resistant, and can be used to print complicated models. It’s also an unreactive material, so it’s the best filament for beginners.
I recommend using the Amazon Basics PLA Printer Filament (available on Amazon.com) for 3D printing your skull. It fits most 3D printers, and it is straightforward to print with.
PETG filament is much stronger than PLA and has higher heat resistance.
It is slightly more challenging to work with, but the final model is more durable. If you want to get creative, why not try printing your skull with this orange Amazon Basics PETG Printer Filament (available on Amazon.com)? You can get it in other colors as well, but it is known for its durable strength and ease of use.
ABS filament is similar to PLA, and you can use it to create an accurate print of your skull. However, it takes longer to print, has a higher printing temperature, and requires more experience to use. Nevertheless, the final result of ABS prints is something to marvel at.
ABS is available in all colors, but I recommend this Formfutura ClearScent ABS Filament (available on Amazon.com).
Resin usually preserves detail better than extrusion filaments, which makes it ideal for printing a hyper-realistic replica of your skull. However, you’ll have to use a resin printer, and they’re a bit less common than FDM printers, so it’s OK to use what you’ve got. However, resin is an ideal medium for printing realistic objects.
3D printers allow you to print various theoretical and practical models. You can even print your skull with the correct print settings, software, and filament. To do so, you’ll need to have a CT scan file and convert it to a printable format.
When choosing a filament to create a cranium model, choose something that suits your experience level. While you can print in color, it’s better to use a clear or white filament to create a realistic model of your skull.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.