From 3-D parts to 3-D hearts, 3-D printing is evolving exponentially

From 3D parts to 3D hearts, 3D printing is evolving exponentially

OSF Healthcare partnered with Caterpillar engineers to print real-to-life models of human hearts.


In 2015, Dr. Matthew Bramlet, a pediatric cardiologist, had a conversation with a Caterpillar engineer at a trade show in Chicago. Their conversation led to a collaboration called Parts for Hearts that created a number of 3D-printed heart models. Unlike other 3D printing solutions, Caterpillar offered a different way of “seeing” the heart and even the ability to cut into the life-size model, giving surgeons a “lay of the land” before setting foot in the operating room. It’s this level of quality that OSF came to expect from Caterpillar. The heart models improve the surgeons’ understanding of the procedure before it actually happens and gives them a real-life model to create surgery plans around.

They are made of a highly flexible material that can be molded to nearly any form, ultimately achieving the goal of replicating nature. This kind of work is pushing our engineers to explore a variety of different applications for 3D printing. Specifically, printing optimized shapes is integral to a future where parts can be printed for our customers on-demand, and partners outside of the working world can reap the benefits of our engineers’ experience.

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