MIT Researchers Develop X-Ray-Like 3D Prints from Medical Scans

MIT researchers have developed a technique which turns 3D scans into highly detailed, multi-material 3D prints. Utilizing voxel-based printing championed by the likes of Stratasys, the process could be beneficial for presurgical planning. 

We’ve seen many instances in which 3D printing has been very useful for medical professionals. However, when taking a MRI or CAT scan and printing it, the results are often no more than mono-colored external “boxes�. Often, interiors need to be printed separately as an external 3D model for medical professionals to get an inside look at their scans.

This can reduce the potential for 3D printing in many industries, especially medicine as medical situations will become less clear when an internal part is taken out of context. But, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on changing this.

Rather than just taking and printing an outer surface scan in just one color, the researchers are working on an alternative that utilizes the three-dimensional detail control offered by voxel printing.

“By using voxel-printing methods, superfluous preparation overhead and loss in detail can be prevented. This approach enables one to directly translate volumetric property gradients to 3D printable material gradients. Hence, if preservation of the given data representation is of importance, including volumetric color, transparency, or continuous material property transitions, our method presents a valuable alternative to current practices,� they explain in a research article for Science Advances.

Voxel printing

Voxel printing

Voxel Printing for Presurgical Planning & Education

With voxel printing, the idea is that the structure has distinct interiors and can show different tissue types. Such a print would likely be more instructive than a 3D model without observable interiors.

To test out the “voxel-based analysis technique�, the researchers turned medical data into highly detailed 3D multi-material 3D models which they then 3D printed on certain machines.

The process began with the researchers turning “discontinuous data types such as point cloud data� from a medical scanner into a complex geometry of high resolution multi-material voxels layer by layer. To print, the researchers use Stratasys’ PolyJet technology including the full-color J750 device.

Voxel printing works by mapping internal structures in a bright color, such as red or blue. Around this, the researchers print a transparent material. This means a doctor can easily hold and look at a 3D print of a medical scan in high resolution.

The researchers mentioned several uses for such technology. These include, presurgical planning, learning and education or preserving artifacts. Read more about the researcher’s work in Science Advances.

Source: SolidSmack

Voxel printing

Voxel printing

License: The text of “MIT Researchers Develop X-Ray-Like 3D Prints from Medical Scans” by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Designer Uses ZMorph 2.0 SX Multitool 3D Printer to Develop Multifunctional Walker Prototype

zmorph-logoWe’ve written about biomedical engineer and 3D designer Eliza Wrobel before, when she used 3D printer manufacturer ZMorph‘s 2.0 SX multitool 3D printer a few months ago to create this really cool revolving 3D printed bookshelf, just months after the printer itself had been announced. Before that, Wrobel put the ZMorph 2.0 S Hybrid printer through its paces by making an orthosis for a man suffering from tetraplegia. Now she’s back again with an ingenious and very helpful prototype: a multifunctional walker, created using the 2.0 SX multitool 3D printer.

zmorph-multifunctional-walker-with-printerWhen a person struggles with limb disabilities or old age, many times they will use a walker to help them move around their homes more easily, and even for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, walkers aren’t always much help when it comes to outdoor activities on uneven surfaces, or when you need to be able to transport something. There aren’t always inexpensive medical solutions that can help in these situations, but with new tools and machines being developed every day, and people like Wrobel around who want to help, this can change. Wrobel wanted to help people with disabilities stay active, and decided to take another look at the often-used walker design, to see if she could make it more functional.

multifunctional-walker-usesWrobel’s multifunctional prototype walker still has the basic functionalities of a regular walker, including a regulated height, but with some helpful additions, like a fitted drink cup holder and easy-to-use hand brakes near the top. It also has a few switchable add-on functions, like a baby seat if someone wants to take their grandchild for a stroll, which can also be switched out for a small shopping basket.

Wrobel said, “Using ZMorph 2.0 SX I was able to materialize and prove my idea for a multifunctional walker that could help disabled people in performing every day tasks.”

The prototype walker has over 100 parts, and was built using straps, screws, a handmade Batman cushion (my favorite part!), wire, and 3D printed elements. Most were printed with different types of plastic filament: silver ABS was used for the frame, because it’s easy to clean the support materials off of the tubing, and the more durable parts of the walker were made with yellow and black PLA parts. Wrobel used black rubber-like Flex filament to create the brakes, wheels, and arm pads at the top.

closeup-multifunctional-walkerThis prototype model was designed using the ZMorph 2.0 SX multitool 3D printer and ZMorph’s multitool digital fabrication Voxelizer software, both of which had the chance to see in action at the CES 2017 show in January. The design model was created in 1:2 scale in order to prove that the idea of a multifunctional walker is, in fact, feasible, and could one day be mass produced.

zmorph-walker-3d-printed-wheelThe prototype is pretty fragile though, so it can really only be used as a showcase model or proof of concept, to be rolled out during business and investor meetings, trade shows, and design meetings. The walker model would need some more work to make it into a functional, test-ready prototype, but luckily, this work could be completed and 3D printed using the ZMorph 2.0 SX. This 3D printer is an advanced rapid prototyping device, with interchangeable toolheads enabling tasks like laser engraving, CNC milling and cutting, thick paste extruding, and one- and two-material 3D printing. In addition, it supports a variety of printing materials, so the designer can pick materials for prototypes that have similar properties to those that will be used for the final product.

According to ZMorph, the prototype multifunctional walker is also “a fine example of how 3D printing can be used to reinvent and innovate in product development. Relatively low costs and short production time give additional advantage especially to young creative minds wanting to help the ones in need.”

Discuss in the ZMorph forum at


Siemens, Strata, Etihad Airways partner to develop MENA's first 3D printed aircraft interiors

Jan 23, 2017 | By Tess

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could soon see the arrival of 3D printed aircraft, thanks to a new three-way partnership between industrial equipment manufacturer Siemens AG, UAE-based aerospace manufacturer Strata Manufacturing PJSC, and Etihad Airways, the UAE’s second largest airline. Together, the three companies are seeking to develop the first 3D printed parts for aircraft interiors in the region.

The partnership has the aim of further integrating additive manufacturing technologies into the aerospace sector in an effort to improve aircraft designs and structural components. This will include the design and manufacturing of new, more structurally complex parts, as well as the manufacturing of discontinued parts, presumably for maintenance purposes.

As part of the partnership’s stated goal, a pilot project will be launched through which 3D printing solutions will be developed for the production of aircraft interior products for Etihad Airways. The forthcoming aircraft parts, as well as being a first for the airline, will mark the first 3D printed aviation parts “designed, manufactured, and certified in the UAE, Middle East and the entire Asian world.”

Each member of the partnership will occupy a distinct role for the upcoming project: Siemens AG, with its extensive experience with industrial additive manufacturing, will offer consultations on the materials, testing, and preparation processes used; Etihad Airways Engineering will certify the 3D printed parts; and Strata Manufacturing will be responsible for the actual 3D printing of said parts.

Once the pilot project is complete, and assuming it is a success, Siemens and Strata say they will explore the development of a strategic three-year joint roadmap, which itself will seek to further industrialize additive manufacturing within the MENA region. According to a press release, this joint roadmap will consist of a training program for UAE citizens that will help to further integrate and deploy 3D printing within the country and abroad.

Etihad Airways, for its part, has high hopes for the adoption of 3D printing into its business. As Jeff Wilkinson, Etihad Airways Engineering CEO, says, “The biggest challenge for the use of flying 3D printed parts in aviation is certification and we are ready to tackle it and make it a reality. Etihad Airways Engineering will be using its expertise and major design certification approval (Design Organization Approval – Part 21J) to design and certify the first 3D printed part for aircraft cabin in the UAE.”

As mentioned, 3D printing will allow the airline to produce more complex, optimized parts for its aircraft in a more cost-efficient and time-efficient manner. The flexibility afforded by 3D printing will also allow the company to adjust and improve upon designs more quickly than using traditional manufacturing methods.

“We see great opportunities for 3D printing as a disruptive force in manufacturing, and expect it to play a key role in a globally competitive, increasingly digitalized industrial landscape in the Middle East,” explained Assem Khalaili, Executive Vice President, Industry Customer Services, at Siemens Middle East. “This is highly relevant technology for the region’s development of an increasingly digitalized and diversified economic landscape, across a wide range of sectors.”

Fittingly, the partnership has been announced in time for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, which Abu Dhabi will be hosting from March 27 to 30, 2017. At the summit, innovators and leaders from the aerospace, industrial equipment, and public sectors will come together to address and discuss the state of global manufacturing in the contemporary world. There is little doubt that additive manufacturing will be a key topic of discussion.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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