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3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

3-Dimensional Printing is the process of creating a physical object using digital models that are designed or extracted from a medical image, using optimal image segmentation. This innovative technology typically uses images segmented from computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or different computer software programs. The image is converted into an STL file that can be used by the printer to build the structure using nozzles that lay down many thin layers of material in succession. 3D Printing utilizes several materials that include plastics (most commonly Polylactic acid (PLA), and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)), ceramics, metals, silicone and wood amongst other materials. 3D printing is a form of rapid prototyping technology that is cost affective and precise. It is a revolutionary solution that can be used in veterinary medicine such as in; creating new and replacement personalized medical devices and implants, pre-operative planning and client communication, used as models for medical education and teaching, as well as drug development and delivery.

Surgery & Pre-Surgical Planning 

Surgeons are able to utilize 3D printing to create custom patient-specific models that allows them to plan a surgical strategy and practice the surgery prior to entering the operating room. Using 3D printed cutting guides in the pre-surgical planning stage gives doctors insight on how and where to operate based on the individual’s specific needs and requirements. This technique decreases the time of the procedure by up to 70%, decreases the potential for surgical error, decreases the rate of patient morbidity, and promotes the advancement of innovation and technology in veterinary medicine. 3D printing technologies can be used in procedures like; joint replacements, limb sparing surgeries, radiation therapy, as well other complex medical procedures.

Surgical Implants

Our ability to solve a variety of complex problems using this technology, has allowed us to create solutions like customizable implants to improve the life of different animals. We are now able to print anatomically correct models to replace, or correct different structures that have been affected by disease, trauma, and congenital defects. Researches around the world have now succeeded in printing different organ tissues, this will become a game changer in medicine and holds a very promising future for the advancement of surgical techniques. Veterinarians have already started to adopt 3D printing as a way of performing specific procedures like; beak replacements in birds, prosthetics, 3D bone implants, and much more.

Client Communication & Education

3D printing has given clinicians a better way to communicate with each other, their clients, and the veterinary students that they are educating. By using 3D printed models, clinicians are able to demonstrate the process of a variety of complex procedures more effectively. Seeing a surgery on a model before it is performed on the patient gives the client a sense of security and better understanding on why the procedure is being recommended. This is a form of visual education that is likely to increase the likelihood of clients to agree to procedures on their pets. This technology also allows veterinary students to practice surgeries, giving them an opportunity to make a surgical plan and refined their skills before operating on a real patient. For first year veterinary students, 3D printed models can be used as learning tools that they can take home to practice things like; cranial nerves, origins and insertions of different muscle groups, and much more. We keep finding ways of using this technology to enhance the way we practice medicine, the possibilities are truly endless!  


3D Printing at the Ontario Veterinary College

Discover RaPPID: Rapid Prototyping for Patient Specific Implants in Dogs 

About Us

The Ontario Veterinary College’s (OVC) RaPPID team is working together to provide state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies to revolutionize the way we practice veterinary medicine worldwide. The team is comprised of Dr. Michelle Oblak, a board-certified surgeon oncologist; Dr. Alex Zur Linden, a board-certified radiologist; Dr. Fiona James, a board-certified neurologist, and John Phillips, a PhD Engineer who is the director of 3D printing in the University of Guelph’s Digital Haptic Lab. Together this team is able to select complicated surgical cases, CT the patient, extract the image and segment it, 3D print the segmented structure, plan and practice the surgery, create 3D printed cutting guides for the surgery, and perform the surgery in less than half of the original time.

RaPPID is currently undergoing a new project with veterinary students Juan Orjuela and Adam Quinlan to form an online consortium for 3D printing in veterinary medicine. This consortium will provide veterinarians a space to share, collaborate, and network with other professionals that are using this technology worldwide. This group is looking to increase the use and the knowledge of 3D printing in the veterinary profession, “we are looking to make veterinarians prominent figures in the sectors of innovation and technology.”

Learn more about 3D printing at OVC below​

3-D Printing Research Opens Up New Possibilities for Cancer Surgeries

Dr. Michelle Oblak: How 3-D Printed Skull Plates are Revolutionizing Surgery



Dr. Michelle Oblak

DMV, DVSc, Diplomate ACVS, ACVS Fellow of Surgical Oncology


Dr. Michelle Oblak is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College where she also completed a rotating internship and combined Residency/ Doctor of Veterinary Science (DVSc) in Small Animal Surgery. Following completion of her DVSc she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Florida where she received designation as an ACVS Fellow, Surgical Oncology. Michelle is currently an Assistant Professor of Soft Tissue and Oncologic Surgery in the Department of Clinical Studies at the Ontario Veterinary College. Her primary goal is to enhance quality of life and care in veterinary cancer patients by providing patient-centered plans that integrate multiple modalities for optimal treatment. As a member of the soft tissue surgery service, her role not only includes offering advanced surgical procedures for pets with cancer, but she also performs basic and advanced soft tissue and neurologic surgery. Dr. Oblak has an interest in minimally invasive surgical options for companion animals, this is why she has begun to investigate 3D printing as a possible alternative.

Research Interets:

  • Research on osteosarcoma and innovative methods for staging and treatment of dogs with cancer including sentinel lymph node mapping, image guided therapeutics, and 3D printing and rapid prototyping for surgical planning and reconstruction.

  • She is an assistant co-director of the University of Guelph Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation (ICCI), and she is also active member of the Dog Osteosarcoma Group: Biomarkers of Neoplasia (DOG BONe).




Dr. Fiona James

DMV, MSc, DVSc, Diplomate ACVIM


Fiona James earned a Master’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario before completing her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree at the Ontario Veterinary College. After an internship in Michigan, she returned to the OVC for both a residency in Neurology and a Doctor of Veterinary Science degree. From 2009 to 2011, she was an adjunct faculty member at OVC and a veterinary neurology specialist working at several private practices in Ontario and the U.S. She joined the OVC Neurology Service in 2011. Her research interests include comparative epilepsy, electroencephalography, translational genetics of neurologic disease, and neuroimaging. Currently, she directs the Comparative Epilepsy Program with active projects examining details of canine electroencephalography and epilepsy syndromes.

Research Interests:

Epilepsy, Electroencephalography, Neuro-imaging



Dr. Alex Zur Linden



Research interests:

  • Computed tomography (small and large animal)

  • Interventional procedures (vascular procedures, thermal ablation of tumors, stent placement)



Dr. John Phillips

PhD - Design Engineer


John Phillips PH.D Engineering, is the Digital Haptic Lab manager. John operates and maintains all of the design stations and equipment, assists with design and production solutions, and trains graduate researchers in the use of all of our computing and prototyping tools.

Research interests: 3D Printing, digital modeling & design 


Contact Us

University of Guelph

50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
N1G 2W1

519.824.4120 x54401
Fax: 519.837.3230