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Reddit user intirb recently posted a detailed tutorial on how to 3D print a model of your own brain using an MRI scan. If you haven’t had your head checked lately (I should hope you haven’t had to), intirb suggests inquiring in local university neuroscience departments to see if you can participate in a clinical trial in exchange for the MRI scans.

Once you have the file of your grey and white matter cut into thin slices, you can import it into a program called FreeSurfer. It’s a highly specialized piece of software, and familiarity with Linux is recommended to use it, although there are plenty of online resources to help you out.
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FreeSurfer will generally take 1-2 days for an average desktop computer to process the MRI data and convert it into an STL file. The resulting file is so complex that it needs to be brought into MeshLab for simplification. Most programs that handle STL files cannot work with objects having more than 20,000 faces. Meshlab is used to reduce the file to below that threshold.

Once this process was complete, intirb had success with dumping the STL straight into his MakerBot. Using this method, you can have a model of your own brain after just two to three hours of printing.

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


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