Medical physics

Rapid additive manufacturing of MR compatible multipinhole collimators with selective laser melting of tungsten powder.

PMID 23298112


The construction of complex collimators with a high number of oblique pinholes is very labor intensive, expensive or is sometimes impossible with the current available techniques (drilling, milling or electric discharge machining). All these techniques are subtractive: one starts from solid plates and the material at the position of the pinholes is removed. The authors used a novel technique for collimator construction, called metal additive manufacturing. This process starts with a solid piece of tungsten on which a first layer of tungsten powder is melted. Each subsequent layer is then melted on the previous layer. This melting is done by selective laser melting at the locations where the CAD design file defines solid material. A complex collimator with 20 loftholes with 500 μm diameter pinhole opening was designed and produced (16 mm thick and 70 × 52 mm(2) transverse size). The density was determined, the production accuracy was measured (GOM ATOS II Triple Scan, Nikon AZ100M microscope, Olympus IMT200 microscope). Point source measurements were done by mounting the collimator on a SPECT detector. Because there is increasing interest in dual-modality SPECT-MR imaging, the collimator was also positioned in a 7T MRI scanner (Bruker Pharmascan). A uniform phantom was acquired using T1, T2, and T2* sequences to check for artifacts or distortion of the phantom images due to the collimator presence. Additionally, three tungsten sample pieces (250, 500, and 750 μm thick) were produced. The density, attenuation (140 keV beam), and uniformity (GE eXplore Locus SP micro-CT) of these samples were measured. The density of the collimator was equal to 17.31 ± 0.10 g∕cm(3) (89.92% of pure tungsten). The production accuracy ranges from -260 to +650 μm. The aperture positions have a mean deviation of 5 μm, the maximum deviation was 174 μm and the minimum deviation was -122 μm. The mean aperture diameter is 464 ± 19 μm. The calculated and measured sensitivity and resolution of point sources at different positions in the field-of-view agree well. The measured and expected attenuation of the three sample pieces are in a good agreement. There was no influence of the 7T magnetic field on the collimator (which is paramagnetic) and minimal distortion was noticed on the MR scan of the uniform phantom. Additive manufacturing is a very promising technique for the production of complex multipinhole collimators and may also be used for producing other complex collimators. The cost of this technique is only related to the amount of powder needed and the time it takes to have the collimator built. The timeframe from design to collimator production is significantly reduced.