Not Just a Pretty Face: Three-Dimensional Printed Custom Airway Management Devices

Jorge A. Gálvez, Allan F. Simpao, Yoav Dori, Kevin Gralewski, Nicholas H. McGill, Michael L. Rivera, Nile Delso, Hammad Khan, Mohamed A. Rehman, John E. Fiadjoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional (3D) printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a fascinating technology that is poised to transform the practice of medicine in the 21st century. The Society for Technology in Anesthesia hosted an engineering challenge to use a 3D printer to create a customized oral airway based on a patient's anatomy. We approached this challenge in two parts. First, we identified a model for an oral airway to base our prototype. We created a 3D rendering of the customizable oral airway and designed a user interface that would accept specific measurements to create a customized oral airway. We then rendered a 3D model of the patient's airway and surrounding structures using Mimics (Materialise, Leuven, Belgium). The model was optimized for an Object Connex (Stratasys, Eden Prairie, MN), which has the capability of printing in various materials. We specified softer materials for the flexible tissues such as the tongue, palate, vocal cords, and epiglottis; a more rigid material was utilized for the supporting structures such as the mandible, nose, and bony structures. Furthermore, we printed the model in various parts, consisting of the tongue, jaw, trachea, and head/neck, that would articulate to make up the head and neck. The head and neck was one continuous part, divided sagittally at the midline, and the trachea was divided in the coronal plane. The printing process took ∼30 h of printing time and resulted in an anatomically correct model that included the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and trachea with an articulating mandible. We describe the process of designing and producing anatomic models for medical device prototype design. We propose a methodology of evaluating medical device prototypes using anatomically accurate models manufactured with 3D printers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-165
Number of pages6
Journal3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Airway reconstruction
  • Anesthesiology
  • Critical care
  • Difficult airway
  • Intubating oral airway
  • Intubation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Not Just a Pretty Face: Three-Dimensional Printed Custom Airway Management Devices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this