Case study: Instant surgical planning with low-cost 3D printed bone models


Dr Boyd Goldie, an orthopaedic surgeon, uses 3D printing to make invaluable visualisation aids for surgeries, saving time and money

3D printing has utterly changed my workflow. As a surgeon, it helps me plan my operation and gives me a better understanding of what I’m dealing with so I don’t have any surprises in the operating room

The organisation

The Holly Private Hospital in Essex is one of the South East’s leading private hospitals,

Established for over 35 years, it is part of Aspen Healthcare and provides a wide range of services including outpatient clinics and treatment in most specialties, diagnostic imaging, screening, physiotherapy, GP services, pharmacy, fertility, weight-loss, cosmetic surgery, pathology and sterile services.

The challenge

Dr Boyd Goldie, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Holly Private Hospital, treats patients with conditions associated with the upper limbs including: the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and arm.

He carries out a range of emergency and elective procedures and provides several different upper limb treatments for his patients.

A pioneer in the use of 3D printers in orthopaedics; he has lectured extensively on the topic and uses the technology regularly in his practice.

3D printing helps him educate patients and facilitates the planning of complex surgeries by using printed models as a guide during operations.

While 3D printing is commonly used in complex surgery, most surgeons order externally-made 3D prints.

Dr Goldie wasn’t content with this arrangement. It was very expensive - hundreds of pounds per print - and took weeks for the 3D prints to be delivered.

Dr Goldie said: “This is no good if you have a guy with a broken wrist and you’re going to operate tomorrow.”

Case study: Instant surgical planning with low-cost 3D printed bone models

The solution

Dr Goldie purchased an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer.

When used in combination with open-source software (, he can 3D print accurate fracture replicas in a matter of hours, depending on the size of the area.

He said: “I ask the radiographers to put the CT onto a disk. You can then extract the files and import them into the software to make the finals for the 3D printer.”

The Ultimaker has also saved money as medical software is costly and takes time to use. With his 3D printer, Dr Goldie can create models in minutes and at a fraction of the price.

Case study: Instant surgical planning with low-cost 3D printed bone models
The results
  • Reduced time and costs involved with bone model preparation
  • Better communication with patients
  • Scalability allows for more-precise results

This process benefits Dr Goldie and his patients.

The patient gains a deeper understanding of the problem and how the doctor will address the issue.

And Dr Goldie is better prepared and careful surgical preparation reduces surgery times.

This makes 3D printing a cost-effective innovation for all procedures. It’s less expensive and faster than using conventional surgical equipment.

Case study: Instant surgical planning with low-cost 3D printed bone models

Other benefits include:

  • Simplified communication with patients through tangible models
  • Optimised surgical planning with reduced operation times
  • Low-cost, effective visualisation aids
  • Customised parts tailored to fit any unique requirement

The costs

3D printing costs depend on both model size and degree of complexity.

On average, a wrist-bone print requires 1.5 m of PLA and an upper arm bone needs 7.3 m.

With Ultimaker 2+ in the office, surgical planning time was reduced from weeks to just a few hours and costs were lowered by 100 times. Sign up for your free email newsletter