As with any industry that delivers a customized product to a consumer, several of the most commonly asked questions for developing anatomical models involve pricing. 


How much will my model cost?

What determines the price of my model?

Are there ways I can save money on my model while still meeting my specific requirements?

What parts of the process cost the most? Which parts of the process are least expensive?


You get the idea…

The truth is that there are many factors that affect the price of a model. Since our models are designed and created based on the specific needs of our customers, an exact answer cannot be given until we know exactly what is expected. 

With that in mind, there are several overarching trends that will affect the cost of an anatomical model regardless of what is needed. These are the top seven factors determining an anatomical model’s price. 

Size of the model

Factor number one comes as no surprise. Typically, the larger the model, the more material is needed. The more material purchased, the higher the total cost. It goes deeper than just the size of the finished product, however.


Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data is created to start the model-making process. The cost of the 3D printed master model is determined by the width, depth, and height, but most of the cost is determined by height.  The taller the part, the more time it takes to print and the higher the cost.

After the masters are made, molds are required to make soft squishy parts.  The molds are rubber, and the raw material is quite costly.   The larger the part, the larger the model, and the greater the cost.


On top of that, many models require multiple custom parts to be created (more on that later). The more custom components needed, the more molds that need to be created, and the more material required as well.



Custom vs. Stock Parts

Most of what we do involves creating a custom product outlined by a customer’s specific needs. This involves meticulously crafting and prototyping and results in a beautiful and functional finished product. 


However, there are circumstances where not every component within a model needs to be customized to produce its desired look, feel, and function. In these situations, stock parts may be a great option to keep costs lower for the customer.


As with most of the custom modeling process, there are various options to reach the desired outcome. Pulse MDM may construct a model entirely with custom parts because that is what’s necessary to satisfy the needs of the training or demonstration. In other instances, only certain components are required to be custom-built, while some of the supporting infrastructures can utilize less costly stock parts. 


This type of mixing and matching is a helpful and important advantage that can provide the ideal outcome for customers based on their budget and specifications.


Molded vs. Fabricated Parts

Most of the time, for the purposes of low-volume medical demonstration models, molded parts are more expensive to produce than fabricated parts. We typically mold more complex shapes, and laser cut simple 2-dimensional shapes.  Molded parts require a mold, while fabricated parts do not. 


Much like the previous example, Pulse MDM may choose to combine 2-dimensional fabricated parts with 3-dimensional molded pieces. For instance, let’s say a customer is looking for an anatomical model of the large intestine with a realistic depiction of a colon polyp for medical demonstration and training purposes. In this case, the customer may not require a fully molded colon, but only show context to help the clinician determine where the polyp is.


This design allows the entire structure of the large intestine created using fabricated (laser-cut) parts and then have only the polyp be a molded 3-dimensional structure. This would allow the customer to get a high-quality model that meets their needs while keeping costs much lower than if the model had been created using all molded parts. 


Cavities vs. Separate Pieces

This example is not as obvious. Certain models, like a kidney or a uterus, require creating a cavity within a larger shape.  This is accomplished by creating the internal cavity as a male shape in wax.  The soft material is cast around the wax, which is melted to leave a cavity behind.   This multi-step process produces a beautiful and effective result that is more costly than making the targeted anatomy in 2 halves.


If Pulse MDM determines the demonstration does not require the model to be one continuous structure, the cost of their model can be reduced by having a cavity formed by two separate pieces that fit together. This serves a dual purpose because not only will it bring down costs during the creation process, but it may also enhance the visibility of the inside of the cavity for demonstration and teaching purposes. 


Incomplete Information from Customer

As the saying goes, “communication is key.” A perfectly customized anatomical model cannot be created unless we know what perfection means to that customer. 


We ask lots of questions before a model is finalized. These questions typically start as “big picture” items, which branch into increasingly specific questions until everyone involved is on the same page. With that in mind, we can only go as far as the information provided.


If a customer is unsure in their responses about the specific details of what they need for their model to be perfect for them, this causes delays and potential miscommunication-driven surprises throughout the production process. These surprises may result in processes needing to be redone, which drives up project costs. 


As stated in November’s Ask Allison, one of the amazing advantages of a Pulse MDM made custom anatomical model is that we are able to revise the material recipes until they match the precise color, feel, and function of the customer’s needs. However, if a customer determines later on that they would like a change in the actual dimensions of the model, no matter how small a change, the CAD data needs to be updated, and new molds need to be created, which would also drive up costs.



Factor number six is another one that is easy to imagine. The more parts that need to be produced to make a model, the higher the cost for that model.  However, the larger number of models ordered, the lower the unit cost.


High-volume production can often be done in China, which keeps costs down significantly. It’s not always quite so simple, though. The tradeoff for the lower production costs in China is increased time and potential for delays compared to native production. Whether or not this tradeoff is worth it is entirely dependent on the customer’s timeline and preferences.


Water-tight and Pressure-tight Parts Cost More

For certain specialized models, it is imperative that they are water-tight and/or pressure-tight. The good news is this can be done to ensure the model meets the needs of its intended function! However, this does require additional design, production, and testing effort.   


In most cases, anatomical models do not need to be water-tight or pressure-tight to meet the specifications of use, so this is a cost that most customers can often avoid.  



There are many additional factors affecting the final cost of an anatomical model; these are just seven of the most common. If any of this seems as if it would be overwhelming for our customers, remember that custom model creation is an interactive process that allows us to collaborate with our customers throughout the process to ensure we are asking the right questions to lead to the most cost-effective product while meeting the customer’s exact needs.


The beauty of custom anatomical models is that they can be as simple or intricate as a customer envisions. As outlined throughout the seven factors above, numerous decisions can be discussed to keep prices within a customer’s budget. 


However, you need not learn or even understand these principles.  Pulse MDM will make these decisions on your behalf for the model that best tells the story of your medical device for the least possible cost.