3D Printing MRI Compatible Tools for Apraxia Study




My housemate, Zarinah, who happens to be a neuroscientist, consulted me about how to make tools that no one would know the use of. My first thought was to hack together different things to create weird/random tools. Upon further investigation, it turned out she wanted two sets of MRI compatible tools (meaning they could not have any metal in them). The first set were replicas of existing, everyday tools that most people use. The second set were replicas of existing tools that were unfamiliar to most people. So my dream of hacking wild and crazy tools was broken.

So why do we need MRI compatible tools? There is a disability called apraxia in which people cannot execute motor skills . Their brains cannot communicate with their limbs. Apraxia is often caused by stroke but it can also be genetically passed down. These patients know what the tools are and how they are used, and can describe how to use them, but when they are handed the tool, they end up using it incorrectly. For example when handed a toothbrush, they brush their hair, or when handed a hammer, they put it in their mouth.

I suggested to her that we 3D print the tools. This would be perfect because it is possible to create exact replicas of things and 3D print them, and since they are plastic they are completely MRI compatible.

Step 1:

I started with the familiar tools first. Some videos of how they were modeled can be found here, here and here. I had to be careful about material thicknesses since the original tools were made out of metal and so they were much stronger at thinner thicknesses. With the pliers, I was able to model them so that they printed in one piece but still functioned mechanically.

Step 2:

For the unfamiliar tools, I sat down with Zarinah to search the world wide web for unfamiliar tools. This was actually quite challenging. The tools had to be a certain size, since they had to fit in the printer, and they also had to have simple functions since the patient would be using them inside the MRI scanner.

What does each tool do? (from left to right, top to bottom)
Garlic press
Boot hook (for removing boots)
Reamer (for making holes wider)
Paint Scraper (for scraping paint off walls)
Pot Lid Holder (for lifting and holding old-fashioned pot lids)
Chip-Chop (for breaking up ice in cocktails)
Leather Prick (for making indents in leather)
Cigar box Opener
Acrylic Cutter (for cutting sheets of plastic)

Step 3: MRI Studies!

Now that all the tools are printed, Zarinah will be testing non-apraxia people to see how their brains work when they are using tools. If non-apraxia effected parts of their brain are being using during tool use, those parts of the brain could be stimulated and possibly help apraxia patients relearn how to use tools.



    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest
    • Barbecue Challenge

      Barbecue Challenge
    • Sensors Contest

      Sensors Contest

    19 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I see kewpiedoll99's point about there not being much intruction. However, as a 3d artist, who is married to a pediatric therapist that works with kids with apraxia and other disabilities, I think this is really cool. I already know how to model and print in 3d and I liked this kind of a high level overview. I am always trying to convince my wife to start a business together making therapy materials for kids using 3d printing. It's cool to see another 3d artist using their skills to cross into other fields in a practical way, and not just making pretty pictures. Thanks for sharing.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is excellent. I have just sent your url to the Society of Radiographers so they can share it with my MRI collegues.


    5 years ago

    Ok, this is brilliant. I wish more scientists would look outside of their immediate peer groups to find solutions to problems.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Regarding MRI and 3D Printing. Since most MRIs can be fully LOAD on DVD and
    all you have to do is ask the MRI Company for a DVD of all the MRI Scanning
    would you be able to use that to start as the basic Input, I know you may need
    or may not need, to run it through a computerized AUTO-CAD or drafting or
    modeling design program, which are getting easier and cheaper? Now
    it would seem to me that there is a Business opportunity here. If you have
    detailed MRI, or for that matter PET Scans, or CT Scans, or even say multi angle
    x-rays such as dental or other, that then a 3D Printer would make a much more
    detailed way to say a doctor, surgeon, dentist (and they do have CNC Dental
    machines to make Ceramic teeth, crowns, etc., this would most likely allow
    anyone from doctors, dentists, surgeons to have a much more detailed perspective,
    including the patient, or a teacher and student, on actual live cases say
    determine fit, or visualize damage, or understand, design like I have fused vertebrae’s
    and was one of the first to do all the titanium plates, screws, bone graphs, procedures,
    etc. I was terrified when they in general, very general, explain (not in
    great detail) though I can read a MRI as well as the surgeon, and that was
    his comment as I was looking at it and started pointing and saying this is damaged
    and why, he was not known for being out-going or having good
    "bed-side manner" but he started discussing then in detail as said
    you can read the film as well as I can. But it would have sure been easier
    to have a 3D model of my vertebras and spinal cord and canal and disk, then the
    various steps to show what was going to be done to me. Before the surgeon
    a friend that worked in the operating room knew I was terrified as my options
    were die or be a quadriplegic the two most likely out comes, though they were
    trying to prevent those. Had the head of Nero-surgery, was not even in
    the same state where my surgery or same company of hospitals, call me and
    explain a lot more than my doctor did.

    But with the advancements you could literally enlarge if you needed a more
    detail physical look, or actual size to pre pare or prepare parts for things
    things before the surgery, or for that matter try other technics or procedure
    to see which provided the best results such s relieving pressure on the spinal
    cord or optimizing vertebrae repair or size for preparing the bone-graphs.
    Thus fairly inexpensive determine the best method and prepare a lot of the
    pieces before you are actually in the middle of the surgery. I know it
    would have made me feel a lot better to ay the doctor basically assembly the problem
    in pieces showing me in detail then also the work to be done as you do not get
    pictures prework so making it a lot more quicker in surgery and more understandable
    to the layman. Architects for decades had used hand made models; many are
    now using 3D Printers for modeling to present to clients to banks for

    Such as they make metal 3D printers, I know expensive still as they micro
    dust metal and lasers to literally melt/weld the thin layers together what
    about advances in say advanced ceramics like Zircon. Aluminum Silicates, Boron
    Nitrates, and other ceramic materials, etc., based parts as if can also in an
    inert atmosphere add say carbon fiber thus creating a ceramic composite, hard
    and strong so crack resistant and wear resistant, same would work with metal composites, actual
    create some extremely interesting parts such as say the turbines in a
    turbocharges well ceramics can withstand a lot higher temperature than metals,
    or for that mater inserts such as engine sleeves or ceramic coating combustion chambers
    and valves and exhaust ports thus able to utilize higher temperatures thus
    release more power as well as well say pollution for a simple example in a
    diesel engine exhaust you have the particulate particle device that literally
    burns up the former black soothe that used to be one of a diesel engines major
    issues, same for a unburned or partially burned hydrocarbon higher temperature
    helps totally consume thus less pollution and higher power realization, and
    also ceramics make excellent heat shields and the wear as harder than many/most
    metals thus able to make lighter thus better performance and lower
    weight. It would seem that 3D Ceramic Printers should be available but I
    have yet to find one even on a prototype phase though they have commercial
    metal 3D Printers.

    Basically I am talking about mass produced customization also.

    So I see several different types of potential based businesses.

    All Ideas, mentioned, and/or procedures are Copyrighted and in patented, or
    patent pending phase.Others may not
    utilize these ideas unless willing to collaborate on joint development must be agreed
    to in writing by myself, my company(ies), or licensed users, within the scope
    of their license.Owner Michael D.
    Gillespie, etal.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    When I read that Zarinah was into brains and mri, I came to a really silly conclusion before reading 3 sentences....

    Printed tools to poke and prod a brain while in the mri machine!! ARGH WTF DOES THE SPIKY ONE DO!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    this is an interesting article, and i applaud your actions. but this not a particularly good or useful *Instructable*. no information is provided here (as opposed to in links out to other i'bles, etc.) on how to do any of the steps you described. i don't think Instructables.com is the right platform for this piece.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I agree that this may not be the perfect instructable since not everyone has access to 3D printers and MRI scanners.

    However, I did make videos on how to 3D model some of the tools and those instructables are linked.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm sorry to be critical, but what I object to is the fact that you have absolutely no *instructions* in this instructable. I did not review those other instructables; they may be fine. But this instructable doesn't provide any instruction.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with i'bles that deal with 3D printers or MRI scanners; that's not my point at all. There are lots of i'bles that deal with all manner of tools that lots of people don't have. If that were a criterion there would be hardly any content on the site.


    5 years ago on Step 2

    What would really be needed, though, are unfamiliar tasks for performing familiar tasks, since the familiarity of the task itself might actually be the main difference, not the tool. The only such tools I can think of are the tooth scraper and sanding sponge, but there are probably others.


    5 years ago

    When I first saw this I thought you were making surgical tools to operate on the patients themselves lol. This would be great for the clinical engineers/biomeds that have to work on the machine itself.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for all the comments guys! Will edit the instructable to add what each unfamiliar tool is :)


    5 years ago

    R u using a eos Teflon 12 and a 3d systems stereo lithographery system. It's very cool indeed

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I used a Connex Objet 500. It uses polyjet printing, basically plastic resins which are cured by UV.


    5 years ago

    This is awesome! I've always wanted to be a Guinea pig for the MRI & FMRI so I could see how my brain works & help others in the process. I used to give blood & can't anymore, so I keep trying to find ways I can help out on studies, but I never qualify for them. :-( Giving blood made me feel like I was at least doing something to help others. Just like to feel that way again.


    5 years ago

    What an awesome concept! And a clever solution that will hopefully help researchers discover ways of helping people with apraxia


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The first one looks like a garlic press, the type you press over the clove :)


    5 years ago on Step 3

    I'm curious what these uncommon tools are used for. Care to enlighten me?

    Johnny J

    5 years ago

    Great set of unusual tools! The only one I recognise is the reamer. :)