Sunday, March 24, 2013

Open Source - Saving Puppies

Slight exaggeration... okay, so it's a massive exaggeration.  The 'pup' is just shy of being a full-grown dog, and the veterinary surgeon is the one who saved her, well, her ability to walk.  But Hackerspace, the Fab Lab, and Open Source software and hardware all played their part.

Just to give you an idea of Open Source's power and awesomeness: our Fab Lab was recently contacted by a Veterinary Surgeon who had a tricky surgery to perform. He wondered if it was possible to print a copy of the dog's bones so he could prepare better.

Turns out it was not just possible, but relatively simple (once we found the youtube video) and I did it using all open source software and an open source printer (the Huxley).  Even the CT Scan Data format (dicom, or DCM) is open. I ♥ Open Source.  No really.  Marry me?


As many of you know Fab Labs aren't really set up for medical use - but I was intrigued.  It would be pretty awesome if we could do this.  So I sat down with the Vetinary Surgeon and discussed the possibility, while searching up a storm on the interwebs. There were a few posts about it, many involving expensive software, but also many about doing it open source.  Enough to make me think I might have a chance.

A year or so I would not even have thought of trying.  But the skills I've learnt at Hackerspace, and seeing just what's possible with open source, gave me the confidence to give it a go.  I got some tips (thanks Pix), and just started manipulating data - learning as I went, and a couple of days later I was able to present  the doc with a 3D printed model of the bones.

The feedback from our Vet Surgeon was positive.  The 3D printed model of our pup's bones was, indeed, helpful in preparing for last Wednesday's successful operation  ("it was the best") - woot!  The surgeon could plan where to cut, and pre-contour the plate (bend it correctly).  Though our pup isn't out of the Woods yet.  So cross your fingers with me, and wish her and her owner luck.

Update:  The Pup's first check-up has gone well.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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