Monash University Revolutionizes Human Anatomy Study

Product: CJP Print
Industry: Academic

Thanks to McMenamin and 3D printing, the cadaver, in all its full-scale and full-color glory, is gaining a new lease on life in medical universities around the world.

For hundreds of years, the human cadaver has been a critical tool for medical teaching, but it’s been problematic for reasons as diverse as cost, transport, storage, spiritual beliefs or just general queasiness.

Monash University in Australia might finally have the answer to a majority of these obstacles: The first commercially available kit of realistic, full-color body parts produced by a 3D printer. 

A paper from Monash University titled “The Production of Anatomical Teaching Resources Using Three-Dimensional Printing Technology” lists several advantages of using 3D printed cadavers, including “accuracy, ease of reproduction, cost-effectiveness and the avoidance of health and safety issues associated with wet fixed cadaver specimens or plastinated specimens.”

Looking inside the body

3D printed, full color hand for use by medical students

Specimens are printed by Monash using 3D Systems ColorJet Printing (CJP) technology. The ProJet series of color printers are easy to use. Most importantly, they produce models in the exact colors that Monash needs for realistic 3D printed body parts.

“The full color is essential to reproducing a combination of realistic color fidelity and ‘coding’—vessels in red or blue, nerves in yellow, for example—that is valuable in teaching,” says Paul McMenamin, director of the Centre for Human Anatomy Education (CHAE) at Monash University.

McMenamin believes his team’s simple and cost-effective anatomical kit could dramatically improve knowledge for medical students and practicing doctors. It could even contribute to better surgical outcomes for patients.

“For centuries cadavers bequested to medical schools have been used to teach students about human anatomy, a practice that continues today,” says McMenamin. “However, many medical schools report either a shortage of cadavers or find their handling and  storage too expensive as a result of strict regulations governing where cadavers can be dissected.

“We believe our kit will revolutionize learning for medical students by enabling them to look inside the body and see the muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. At the moment it can be incredibly hard for students to understand the three-dimensional form of human anatomy, and we believe this kit will make a  huge difference.”

Realizing an ‘ah ha’ moment
Marcando la diferencia en Liberia

3D printed, full-color model of the brain highlights venous arterial circulation

Cadavers printed in 3D might seem like a logical progression for the medical community, but it took technological progress in 3D printing to make it happen. The 3D Systems machines used by Monash University deliver the ability to print full-color models at relatively high speeds at a cost that provides a marked improvement over plastic models or plastination of human remains.

“I was looking for a way to produce more anatomy prosections and maybe plastinate them, but realized it would take decades and more than a half-million dollars to set up a plastination lab,” says McMenamin. “Each specimen would have to be dissected and prepared and then I would have one of that specimen.

“So we thought ‘why don’t we scan them (CT or laser), make color STL or VRML files, and print them so we can make lots of copies’. Seems obvious now, but it was sort of an ‘ah ha’ moment.”

Thanks to the 3D Systems printers, Monash University can produce parts that range from a full body to head and neck, upper limb, pelvis and lower limb, and thoracic and abdominal regions. A deal with German anatomical model makers Erler-Zimmer makes the cadavers available for purchase online, with delivery within weeks at a fraction of the cost of an embalmed or plastinated body.

The Monash series also includes anatomically correct models that would be impossible to visualize in an embalmed body – such as 3D prints of the vasculature of the brain with fine veins and arteries embedded within the skull.

Making a difference in Liberia

3D printed full color head and torso showing circulatory paths

A recent project showed just how much of a difference a 3D printed cadaver can make to a university in need — in this case, the University of Liberia’s Dagliotti Medical School. 

Inspired by a speech by Dr. Ian Crozier, a doctor who had contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, McMenamin arranged for a full set of 3D prints and a set of posters of histological (a microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues) images to be sent to the school.

McMenamin also volunteered his time to teach faculty and students how to use the 3D anatomy kit. His accommodations and logistical support in Liberia were provided by ACCEL (Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia), an effort led by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and funded by Paul G. Allen’s #TackleEbola initiative.

In exchange for his donations and teaching, McMenamin has the satisfaction of helping a desperately poor and understaffed medical school provide better anatomical teaching for a new generation of Liberian doctors.

“Helping the medical school in Liberia with the support of my CHAE team and Monash University has been the best thing I have done for my fellow human beings,” says McMenamin. “The students there were just so grateful for any help that was provided. It was very humbling.”

McMenamin is likely to have more achievements in the near future about which to be humble: Using the latest 3D printing technologies from 3D Systems, his team is working on interactive, dissectible 3D anatomical reproductions that could be used to help train future surgeons.

Thanks to McMenamin and 3D printing, the cadaver, in all its full-scale and full-color glory, is gaining a new lease on life in medical universities around the world.

3D Printing the Mystery of the Brain

Product: SLS Printing
Industry: Academic

The 3D data file was huge and complex, and its sheer size made it a challenge to view and share, let alone 3D print it.

The human brain—an organ that, despite ever-advancing technology to scan and understand it, still remains very much a mystery to researchers and scientists. But that technology is allowing those researchers to advance the understanding more quickly, and it forms the basis of the Philadelphia-based Franklin Institute’s new exhibit, Your Brain.


This vivid and interactive exhibit features a two-story neural network climbing model with lights and sounds that are triggered by footsteps. Numerous hands-on exhibit devices allow greater understanding of how our minds work, while another central feature is an intricate and stunning 3D printed model of the white matter patterns in the brain.

Lead exhibit developer Dr. Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist at The Franklin Institute, devised the displays as part of the new building expansion at the institute. 

“Our philosophy behind our exhibits is to make real science approachable through hands-on, engaging exhibits,” said Dr. Das. “From an educational point of view, we knew that the concept of functional pathways needed to be an important aspect of brain science that was addressed in the exhibit, and diffusion tensor imaging gets to the heart of the real science through which scientists try to understand the wiring of these pathways. The 2D images we had seen were really beautiful, so we thought that a large-scale 3D print would be perfect as an intriguing, eye-catching sculpture that would serve as both a unique design focus and a connection to research.”

The museum approached researcher Dr. Henning U. Voss, Associate Professor of Physics in Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Voss has conducted a decade of research into brain neuron mapping, using MRI scans to create 3D tractograms of brain matter.

“The human brain consists of white and gray matter. The white matter of the brain contains fibers that connect gray matter areas of the brain with each other,” he said. “Using an MRI scan of a 40-year-old man, we calculated diffusion tensors, and then created the white matter fiber tracts from them. We handed a surface model of the fiber tracts to Direct Dimensions for processing.”

The 3D data file was huge and complex, and its sheer size made it a challenge to view and share, let alone 3D print it.

Dr. Das and the team had long planned to 3D print the intricate 3D model. Once they had the data, they approached numerous 3D printing providers, only to be turned down.

“Everyone told us it was way too complex to handle on a 3D printer,” said Donna Claiborne, Exhibit Project Manager at The Franklin Institute. “We were surprised because everything we knew about 3D printing said that it was good with complex shapes.”

And the model was very complex. Each white matter pattern was described as a “strand,” and it had about 2,000 strands in the data. But the apparent beauty created by the complex strands was causing the model to be rejected.

The team at The Franklin Institute kept searching for a 3D print expert that would accept the challenge. They finally landed on Direct Dimensions of Owing Mills, MD. The team there, headed by CEO Michael Raphael, has been advancing 3D scanning, capture and digitization for 20 years and has a staff expert at every form of 3D. Their Art Director, Harry Abramson, took one look and knew what it would take to complete the project.

“We have an extensive track record working with extremely complex forms for 3D printing and digital art fabrication. I knew we could do it, the question was could we do it on budget!” said Harry.

Harry contacted his long-time 3D printing partner, Jason Dickman, president of American Precision Printing (APP), a 3D printing service bureau located in Tulsa, OK. “For an object this complex AND fragile in design, SLS from 3D Systems was the only choice. I called Jason and we went over the size constraints of the build envelope, the volume of the object and our lead time, and very quickly I had a price and his guarantee that they could build the brain as long as we could prepare the files. What we lacked in budget, we made up with having a long lead time, so the project was a go!”

“Fortunately Dr. Voss provided an amazing data set for us to start with. In order to print this at large scale, each of the thousands of strand models would have to be fused to create a single brain model that could then be sliced into printable parts that fit in the build envelope. The whole model would then need engineering and design modifications to ensure that it could be assembled precisely and support itself on its custom mount.”


Ultimately it took weeks of grueling work to prepare this file for APP. “This work required a highly skilled technician with just the right disposition. Without the right human resources, this project would have never happened,” said Harry. “With about 2,000 strands to sort through, it was a task of immense proportions. Mind boggling in fact.”

SLS technology from 3D Systems uses layers of plastic powder that are fused into a 3D definition by powerful CO2 lasers. The materials are robust enough for widespread aerospace and automotive uses, so they knew it would be perfect for this project.

The Direct Dimensions team worked on cutting the 3D data into pieces that could be printed within the size limitations of the SLS system. Once the re-engineered data was received from Direct Dimensions, the APP team went to work creating pieces of the model that would be printable on the sProHD 60 SLS machine at the Tulsa facility.

“The main challenge from my side was that the model is 26 inches long, my SLS machines are limited to a build size of 18 inches,” said Jason at APP. “We would have to build, map, and assemble 10 abstract pieces into one single part.”


The team at APP used 20-22 hours for each build to complete. Once they came out of the printer, the team started to map and assemble the pieces into the finished model. Despite the extensive re-engineering of the 3D data, there were still a number of unattached strands that had to be assembled.

“It was a lot of work for all the teams, but we all knew from the first part that this was going to be stunning,” said Jason. “It is a perfect example of the power of 3D printing and we were glad to be a part of something so powerful.”

The piece, mounted in a Plexiglas box with lighting underneath the 3D printed model, forms a stunning centerpiece to one of the exhibit galleries.

“It has really become one of the iconic pieces of the exhibit. Its sheer aesthetic beauty takes your breath away and transforms the exhibit space,” said Dr. Das. “The fact that it comes from real data adds a level of authenticity to the science that we are presenting. But even if you don’t quite understand what it shows, it captures a sense of delicate complexity that evokes a sense of wonder about the brain.”

Said Dr. Voss, “The 3D printed model is awesome and utterly exceeds even my most optimistic expectations. This was a fantastic project with an amazing team of people who made it come together.”

Revealing an Ancient Tomb’s Secrets with Geomagic Control X

Product: Geomagic Control X
Industry: Academic

When researchers at the Gaya National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (GNRICH) wanted to know all they could about an ancient tomb discovered in Changnyeong, South Korea, they turned to 3D scanning and 3D Systems software to get the job done.

Recapturing the Past

In order to analyze all the data they could find in the tomb without having to be physically present or risk damaging the remains inside, the researchers needed to find a way to digitize the entire tomb, including four ancient human skeletons, to a high degree of accuracy and detail in full 3D.

To make matters even more challenging, they would need to have everything together in one master file for analysis, so they needed to work with a huge amount of data simultaneously. Finally, they planned to construct physical models of the human remains found in the tomb, so they needed a solution that was flexible enough for them to split up the data and optimize it for reproduction in resin.

Uncovering the mysteries of a 1500-year-old Korean tomb

Leveraging the Power of 3D

The GNRICH research team first scanned the overall shape of the tomb using a long-range outdoor scanner (the RIEGL LMS-Z390i). Then, to get close up and capture the high detail they needed on some of the human remains, they scanned a number of the bones with a Konica Minolta VIVID 910. These 3D scanners recorded all the spatial information and detailed 3D data that they needed, but this process combined for a total of 3.7 Gigabytes of data, a huge amount by any standard!

From real to virtual using 3D scanning and Geomagic Control X software

The team found that Geomagic Control X was the only software able to handle massive amounts of scan data with relative ease on their existing computers. Control X also provided them with sophisticated but simple tools to align, merge, and significantly reduce the size of the data without sacrificing scan quality or resolution. The researchers were even able to bring it all together into a common 3D coordinate system to create an exact and complete 3D virtual model of the bones in the tomb.

Rapid learning

The GNRICH researchers were able to make many scientific conclusions from the 3D scan data they processed through Geomagic Control X. After processing they used Control X to analyze the resulting data, measuring features like the volume, length, and anatomical structures of the four corpses in the tomb. Through these analyses and other techniques such as carbon dating and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing, the researchers were able to estimate all kinds of data such as the height, weight, age, heredity, and dietary habits of each of the buried men and women. They were even able to perform forensic analyses on the ancient bodies, concluding that the tomb’s occupants may have been killed by poison or suffocation. Remarkably, they also found evidence of Soon-jang, an ancient burial custom in which servants were buried alive with their dead masters.

Further study

Finally, the GNRICH research team used Geomagic Control X and Geomagic Design X software to prepare their 3D scan data for production as physical 3D models. These models were made from 108 different resins to closely match the physical properties of bone and to aid in further study. In 2009, the team plans to continue their investigation into causes of death, diseases, athletic abilities, and more. They also plan to make whole body models using an innovative technology to add artificial muscle and skin to their resin bone models. The team is very excited about the power that 3D scanning and technology from 3D Systems have contributed to their efforts.

Artec SDK for a faster automated, error-free robotic scanning process

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Academic

An international group of researchers have used Artec Scanning SDK and Artec Spider mounted to a robotic arm to develop a new automated scanning method which produces 3D scans of great quality even when scanning small objects with complicated geometry. A number of comparative tests have proved that the new method effectively outperforms previous scanning techniques.

3D scanning physical objects may present quite a large challenge, especially when the object has a complicated texture and occlusions. There has been a great deal of research carried out to eliminate the amount of damaged data and blind spots in resulting 3D images, and one team has come up with some really impressive results.

A new scanning method has been devised by a group of engineers from Visual Computing Research Center, Tel-Aviv University, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Konstanz and Shandong University.

In a series of experiments, the researchers used Artec’s 3D scanner fixed to an arm of an anthropomorphic robot, PR2, to scan a number of small objects placed on a resin table that the robot held and rotated in its other hand.

For their experiments, the team chose Artec Spider over other 3D scanning solutions. Spider is an ideal tool for scanning small objects since it sees even the sharpest edges and very tiny parts.

Spider produces images of extremely high resolution (up to 0.1 mm) and superior accuracy (up to 0.05 mm), capturing up to 7.5 frames per second and processing 1,000,000 points per second. The frames are fused in real time, meaning that no complicated post-processing is required.

Together with Artec Studio 3D modeling software, it is a powerful, desktop tool for designers, engineers and inventors of every kind, and with Artec Scanning SDK, it can now be incorporated into any specialized scanning system.

The main objective of the experiments was to ensure high fidelity scanning of the objects. This goal was achieved by placing the scanner at strategically selected Next-Best-Views (NBVs) to progressively capture the geometric details of the object, until both completeness and high fidelity were reached.

The idea of the new autonomous scanning system boils down to the analysis of the data acquired by the scanner and the generation of a set of NBVs for the scanning robot.

The scanning process starts with a blind, all-around scanning of the object to obtain an initial point cloud that roughly covers large portions of the object’s surface. Then a set of NBVs, or candidate viewpoints, is generated based on the screened Poisson equation.

The robot then moves the scanner so as to take snapshots from these viewpoints. When the robot’s hand holding the scanner has reached the assigned viewpoint, a scan is made. The system obtains the frame, which is then registered and merged with the initial image.

To avoid losing detail, the new algorithm creates a confidence map, accurately detecting low-quality areas where additional scans need to be applied.

The scanning process was programmed using Artec’s Scanning SDK. The scanning takes place automatically and stops once the specified reconstruction requirement has been reached.

The new algorithm was compared to two other NBV-based algorithms, one focused on visibility and the other one on boundaries. The new approach proved to provide higher quality of scanning.

The researchers also compared their algorithm to curvature- and density-based approaches to again show that their method delivers scans of unparalleled quality.

In addition, the team experimented with their algorithm on another robotic platform, a one-arm industry robot to automatically scan a delicate elephant object at high quality and high fidelity.

Young engineer in Zimbabwe exploring generative design

Product: Solid Edge
Industry: Academic

Wisdom James Murombo has a passion for engineering and has been exploring the use of new techniques to optimize his designs for strength and weight. Wisdom is in his third year of study of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Optimizing designs using generative design

For design projects that are assigned to NUST students, Wisdom was motivated to think beyond conventional solutions and is exploring the use of generative design techniques in Solid Edge. “I’ve always been interested in engineering and design,” Wisdom says. “My father runs a workshop for diesel engine maintenance and I have learned many practical engineering techniques by helping him in his workshop. But I always wondered if the design of the engine components I worked on can be improved.”

Wisdom continues: “I’m using Solid Edge with its generative design capabilities to investigate whether I can make components as light and efficient as possible while maintaining the required strength.” One of his recent projects was to design an engine mount to use in his father’s workshop: “I came up with an initial conceptual design and added the loads that the support will need to support. The generative design capability in Solid Edge shows me where the material can be reduced without compromising the strength of the stand.”

Design a system to help COVID19 diagnosis

Wisdom does not limit his talent to mechanical design projects. He also has skills in writing software and artificial intelligence. He recently joined forces with another student to design a system that processes x-ray images to support rapid diagnosis of COVID19 patients. Wisdom says: “Using AI techniques, the system has the potential to partially automate the initial diagnosis of patients. This can help our healthcare professionals work more efficiently with an increasing number of patients.” This project took second place in the 9th ICAT Tech-a-thon of the International Network of Appropriate Technology (INAT).

Future plans

When he graduates, Wisdom plans to apply his design and automation skills to work for a company in the areas of manufacturing, mining or automotive in Zimbabwe or abroad. Another possibility is for Wisdom to start its own business and be in addition to the Solid Edge for Startups program. We want Wisdom success in the future and hope you will continue to explore next-generation design technologies on Solid Edge.

An encounter between prehistory and high technology, where Artec Leo comes face to face with a dinosaur skull

Product: Artec Leo
Industry: Academic

Dinosaurs – Creatures that have inspired study and research for centuries, and continue to intrigue millions of people around the world today. For the preserved remains of a triceratops roaming the Earth in prehistoric times, modern technology has attributed a status few dinosaur fossils have achieved: digital immortality.

Originally discovered in 1891 near the village of Lance Creek, Wyoming, the skull of this herbivore was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. until the late 1970s. He was then loaned to the CU Museum, where he now resides; the current museum was literally built around this skull.

“The Smithsonian estimated how much it would cost to tear down that wall, pull this thing out and return it, because they own it, and it was so expensive and risky that no one wanted to do it,” says Nick Conklin, Application Engineer II of Artec’s certified partner Gold, 3D Printing Colorado. This means that the skull, in principle, stays where it is, but with 3D scanning technology, there are now previously impossible possibilities.

When Conklin and his partner David Cano first visited the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in January this year, it was for sale by a Artec Leo 3D scanner. “As we entered, we saw the skull of the triceratops and thought, ‘Hey, that would be a really cool scan, we should do it sometime!'” conklin recalls.

With each scanner that sells 3D Printing Colorado, training is included. But for Dr. William Taylor, curator of archaeology at the university, already familiar with Artec 3D scanners, another add-on was suggested.

“Dr. Taylor had already used artec Space Spider a lot, so instead of training, he decided to bring the Leo to one of his classes,” Conklin says. “He wanted us to show his students what can be done with Leo and scanning technology.”

Thus began a project of prehistoric proportions, to digitize a dinosaur skull completely.

“For 30 or 40 minutes, at one of Dr. Taylor’s night classes, I was scanning the skull of the triceratops while talking to the students, explaining what he was doing, so it was a great apprenticeship,” Conklin says. This skull scan quickly caught CU Media’s attention.

“The university’s media was everywhere, and they wanted to take pictures and videos of a dinosaur being scanned,” says Cano. “Once they found out about this, they invited us back, and this time instead of a teaching experience, it was more of a movie photo shoot,” Conklin adds.

During his second scan, something helped a lot in the session, a ladder. “With the ladder, I was able to get some details that had slipped away from me before, so it was much better,” Conklin says.

The scan took a total of 30 minutes, while the scan processing was completed in artec Studio3D software in two hours.

Using Leo, most of the surfaces were near the ground. “I was able to get everything except the top peaks from the ground with my normal range and range of motion,” Conklin says. “With his large field of view and the ease with which Leo gets the data, it was very easy. I wasn’t just scanning, as I was talking and explaining what I was doing.”

As easy to use as recording a video with your mobile, Artec Leo comes with a screen, which means you can see if you’ve captured all the areas and fill in the ones that could have been left. 3D replication is generated in real time as you scan, so you can focus on the work, how in this case, scan while demonstrating PhD students on a ladder.

“With another scanner I could have done it, but it would have been harder, I would have had to pay more attention to everything. But with Leo and how well he tracks, I was able to divide my attention between class and quality data collection. It’s definitely the best tool for this job.”

Conklin says that being able to access the skull with a ladder made the data obtained much better, as he was able to scan both the back and top of the skull and from all angles. “I liked the end result a lot more,” he says. “My biggest concern was that it’s an irreplaceable piece of archaeology, and if anything had happened to him. I don’t even want to think about it.”

Thanks to this scan, in addition to having a 3D model of the museum star, many other companies and faculties can find educational and professional opportunities. In essence, what inspires the team is the ability to do something that was previously impossible.

“Especially now that everyone stays at home, you can work from home and do whatever you want from a 3D file, such as performing simulations or conducting research,” Conklin says.

“Supporting research that would not otherwise be possible is another reason why this is important, in addition to the fact that anyone, anywhere in the world can start researching from this copy.”

From measurements to research, from global accessibility to preservation, opportunities are limitless. “Even maybe for the CGI for the next Jurassic Park movie, or video games,” Conklin suggests. “I’m excited to think about it!”

“Just to see how history is done and preserved, to see how the world changes, how something that would have been destroyed over time or for any other reason can be preserved, time passes for all, but if we can digitize things, we can go back in time eternally.”

Today, what the home of the skull has been considering is using scanning to make a mold and then create its own copy on the Smithsonian, now that they have the exact measurements of the entire skull, something they had never had before. “I don’t think we could have done it without the 3D scan,” says Conklin, who is happy to fulfill his childhood dream of wearing the archaeologist’s hat for a day. “I’ll tell you what,” he adds. “If you build a replica of this dinosaur skull from my scanning data, I’ll bring my future grandchildren to see!”

“I would like to go a step further and see what we can do with the museum in terms of digitization and help them in the long run,” Cano stresses.