3D Printing & Imaging Health & Biohacking Science
How-To: 3D Print a Model of your Brain

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.

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.

18 thoughts on “How-To: 3D Print a Model of your Brain

  1. That is awesome! We used to have Silicon Graphics workstations to crunch 3D images of MRI scans- we considered that pretty cool around 2000-2001.

  2. Several years ago, I had an MRI of my brain, things looked fine. I also asked if I could have a photo of my brain. They said no, unless I had $2,000 for the procedure. They told me they were not allowed because the insurance companies would not allow it. They felt people would want the MRI not for medical reasons but just to have an image of their brain.

    The we’re probably right.

    1. Sounds like heavy bull s**t – not on your behalf – why the hell should insurance companies care about people getting happy with data about their own organs? Apart from that that you are maybe the only one at all who has all exclusive rights on those, it Sounds more like they fear anyone is starting to sue them due to wrong diagnostics based on the images.

    2. That’s annoying, MRI control consoles usually have a simple one-click burn to cd feature. If you our your doc asked for the exam they dont usually fuss about handing them over.

  3. There is a very similar instructables here:

    Which uses software called inversalius

    I roughly followed the instructables tutorial and it took much less time than a 1-2 days to process my cat and mri scans. I think maybe 5-20min depending on settings. Granted I have a pretty good system but not mind blowing by any means. Although the difference in speed could be due to a lot of things. Maybe my scans were lower res, inversalius might be faster (or slower), my system might be much better than I realize and so on.

    Anyway just though I would share those links because they worked out well for me when I was doing a very similar thing.

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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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