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3D printing brings Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings to life

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) has been wowed this month by the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Mechanics of Man’ exhibition; and 3D printing from the University of Warwick has created one of the big talking points.

Collaborative work between WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) and Warwick Medical School created translucent 3D plastinations that use Leonardo Da Vinci’s original drawings of the human anatomy. The exhibition, which runs until 10 November 2013, sees the drawings, which are over 500 years old, side by side with plastinations, 3D scans and a translucent 3D heart.

The heart was generated by transferring an MRI image into a STereoLithography (STL) file. The software then slices this STL file into layers that can be 3D printed by jetting a liquid polymer layer-by-layer, which is instantaneously solidified through the use of ultraviolet light.

In the process of printing, a number of print heads provided the polymer for the heart, and some print heads created a gel-like support material, required to be able to print the complex heart structure, that would later be removed by water jets.

Dr Greg Gibbons, Head of Additive Layer Manufacturing at WMG, said, “It’s great to see this technology moving into different areas; and the interface between arts, humanities, medicine and engineering.”

It is further evidence of how the digital manufacturing world is working alongside medical research, particularly in the field of medical imaging.

Exhibition collaborator Peter Abrahams, Professor of Clinical Anatomy at Warwick Medical School, said, “The anatomical accuracy of Leonardo’s drawings has rarely ever been surpassed, and I still use them to teach surgeons and medical students today. Hopefully this exhibition will introduce the audience to both the anatomical drawings of da Vinci and how engineering is shaping the future of medical imaging.”

The exhibition ‘Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man’ is at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 2 August – 10 November 2013, and is part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The exhibition will be open late throughout August, until 8.00pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

'The Culture Show at Edinburgh:Leonardo da Vinci - The Anatomist' was shown on BBC Two at 10.00pm on Wednesday 14 August. It is available on BBC iPlayer until Wednesday 21 August.

Further information

For further information on the exhibition, or to arrange interviews with Dr Gibbons or Professor Abrahams, contact Luke Harrison, Communications Manager on +44 (0)2476 574255/150483, m: +44(0)7920 531221 or

Useful links

WMG on Twitter

WMS on Twitter

Edinburgh International Festival