3D Printing Center of Excellence


At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, we provide world-class health care with compassion and excellence to more than 200,000 children and their families every year. In addition to our exceptional clinical care, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon invests in the latest technology to ensure the best outcomes for our young patients.

The use of 3D printing has long been recognized as a valuable tool in health care. By using advanced software to process standard 2D images from CT scans and MRIs, doctors at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon are creating anatomically-accurate models of various organs and structures, including hearts, kidneys, brains, blood vessels, jaws and skulls, to assist them in planning complicated, high-risk surgeries on children of all ages.

Generous community support has enabled us to launch our very own 3D Printing Center of Excellence at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. By having a 3D printing lab onsite, models are created in a matter of hours, instead of the days or weeks it takes when using an outside lab. When planning and performing surgical interventions, such as for a traumatic injury, time is of the essence.

3D printers work much like standard office printers, but instead of ink, our 3D printers use surgical-grade plastic resin. Over the course of several hours, layer upon layer of material is laid down until an accurate model is created. Physicians then use these models to visualize and plan complex surgeries, and size their instruments if necessary, before the child even enters the operating room.

The added benefit of using surgical-grade material is that models can be sterilized and taken into the operating room, where surgeons can take continual measurements and test-fit surgical repair plates, ensuring even greater accuracy. These models can even be used to test-fit and adjust surgical repair plates and guides during surgery.

In addition to the medical and surgical applications, doctors use 3D models to explain procedures to anxious parents, giving them a clearer picture of their child’s condition and the surgeon’s plan for addressing the issue. In times of stress and uncertainty for parents, the use of 3D models has the ability to set their minds at ease.

How Your Support Will Help

While 3D printing is not a new technology, it is ever-evolving, and can be very expensive. Currently, 3D modeling is not covered by insurance, and we create the models at no cost to families.

  • Operational Support including two full-time engineers to operate the 3D printers and create
    the models for doctors.
  • Ongoing Technology Upgrades as newer software and hardware becomes available.
  • Materials to make each model can cost anywhere from $5 to over $1000 to produce,
    depending on its size and complexity.
Dr. King holding a 3D printed model of a patient's heart
3D Printing Center of Excellence-Dr. King and Dr. Lin