Tag Archives: biology

3D Printed Pets: Researchers Scan and 3D Print Animal Skeletons

3D Printed Pets Comparison

3D Printed Pets

3D printing is now being used for nearly everything, but what about 3D printed pets?

Researchers at Notre Dame have combined their study of Biological Sciences with 3D printing. The team created a method for CT scanning anesthetized animals, such as rats and rabbits, converting the scans into contiguous 3D models, and then 3D printing the animal skeletons on a range of 3D printers.

Here is the abstract for their publication on this research.

Three-dimensional printing allows for the production of highly detailed objects through a process known as additive manufacturing. Traditional, mold-injection methods to create models or parts have several limitations, the most important of which is a difficulty in making highly complex products in a timely, cost-effective manner. However, gradual improvements in three-dimensional printing technology have resulted in both high-end and economy instruments that are now available for the facile production of customized models. These printers have the ability to extrude high-resolution objects with enough detail to accurately represent in vivo images generated from a preclinical X-ray CT scanner. With proper data collection, surface rendering, and stereolithographic editing, it is now possible and inexpensive to rapidly produce detailed skeletal and soft tissue structures from X-ray CT data. Even in the early stages of development, the anatomical models produced by three-dimensional printing appeal to both educators and researchers who can utilize the technology to improve visualization proficiency. The real benefits of this method result from the tangible experience a researcher can have with data that cannot be adequately conveyed through a computer screen. The translation of pre-clinical 3D data to a physical object that is an exact copy of the test subject is a powerful tool for visualization and communication, especially for relating imaging research to students, or those in other fields. Here, we provide a detailed method for printing plastic models of bone and organ structures derived from X-ray CT scans utilizing an Albira X-ray CT system in conjunction with PMOD, ImageJ, Meshlab, Netfabb, and ReplicatorG software packages.

3D Printer Comparison

The research team used three different methods for 3D printing the skeletons: consumer 3D printer MakerBot, 3D printing service Shapeways, and industrial 3D printer ProJet HD 3000.

3D Printed Pets Comparison

Below is a detailed comparison:

Method of Printing Advantages Disadvantages Cost per Model
MakerBot Extremely fast, variety of color options, able to print in two colors, extremely inexpensive Lowest level of detail. Removal of support materials is slow (on the order of a couple hours). $3.50
Shapeways Varity of color options, variety of materials for printing, high level of detail, relatively inexpensive Two-week time to process and receive an order $41.61
ProJet HD 3000 Relatively quick turnaround, highest level of detail, high throughput, easy to remove support materials (wax). Most expensive up front cost ($80,000 equipment), only one color option during practical use. $30.00

A video is available that walks through their method of scanning and a comparison of the results. You can watch the video at the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE). Chapters include:

0:05 Title
1:41 Image Acquisition and Data Processing
4:21 Makerbot Printing
6:33 Shapeways Printing
7:32 ProJet HD 3000 Printing
8:45 Results: 3D Printed Models
10:39 Conclusion

Nature’s 3D Printing: Using E. Coli Bacteria to Grow Objects

Synthetic Biology 3D Printing

The field of synthetic biology offers us state-of-the-art results like biofuel, but researchers are looking to push the envelope and develop a technique that could be Nature’s version of 3D printing.

Designers at IDEO have teamed up with scientists at the Lim Lab at the University of California, San Francisco to envision a “provocation” (that’s designer-ese for thought experiment) in which they explore the possibilities of exploiting known properties of microorganisms to literally “grow” the products we use every day.

In layman’s terms, researchers are exploring ways to train bacteria to grow into shapes when exposed to light. Perhaps one training could result in a coffee cup while another results in a functional motor gear.

Synthetic Biology 3D Printing

In their first visual exploration of this possibility, they decided to expand on an already-demonstrated property of certain E. coli bacteria. These bugs were genetically engineered to be responsive to light, creating so-called “bacterial photographs.”

From there, Will Carey and Adam Reineck of IDEO teamed up with Reid Williams, a Ph.D. candidate at UCSF, to imagine a photo-sensitive microorganism that would have its light-sensitive switch linked to a different property–say, the production of a hard shell.

The result could be a tough and durable everyday object made out of cells encased in cellulose–the stuff in plants–or chitin, which is the major component of lobster shells.

It’s important to note that at this stage, this process is still entirely conceptual. But it is based on real science, and that’s the whole point: design provocations like these help people think outside the mental boxes we’ve all been put in by our limited knowledge of what’s happening at the frontiers of science.


Via Fast Company.

Biologist photo by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used under Creative Commons license.

Video: Current and Future 3D Printing at Singularity University

Scott Summit 3D Printing

In the video below, Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations, explains the current state and future potential of 3D printing. He talks about architecture, jewelry, medical, and biological applications, among other topics. He also discusses business models of existing 3D printing players, such as Shapeways and Freedom of Creation. The video was recorded at Singularity University.

How Leading Scientists Across Fields are Embracing 3D Printing

Nature 3D Printing Science

Nature, the international weekly journal of science, published a feature on how 3D printing is opening up new worlds to research. In a detailed article, Nature covers uses of 3D printing by leading scientists ranging from investigating complex molecules, designing custom lab tools, printing and sharing rare artifacts, and manufacturing cardiac tissue that beats like a heart.

We recommend you read the full feature. Below are some of the highlights:


At palaeontology and anthropology conferences, more and more people are carrying printouts of their favourite fossils or bones. “Anyone who thinks of themselves as an anthropologist needs the right computer graphics and a 3D printer. Otherwise it’s like being a geneticist without a sequencer,” says Zollikofer.

Read more coverage on paleontology.

Molecular biology

These days, 3D printing is being used to mock up far more complex systems, says Arthur Olson, who founded the molecular graphics lab at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, 30 years ago. These include molecular environments made up of thousands of interacting proteins, which would be onerous-to-impossible to make any other way. With 3D printers, Olson says, “anybody can make a custom model”. But not everybody does: many researchers lack easy access to a printer, aren’t aware of the option or can’t afford the printouts (which can cost $100 or more).

Organ reproduction

For example, Organovo, a company based in San Diego, California, has developed a printer to build 3D tissue structures that could be used to test pharmaceuticals. The most advanced model it has created so far is for fibrosis: an excess of hard fibrous tissue and scarring that arises from interactions between an organ’s internal cells and its outer layer. The company’s next step will be to test drugs on this system. “It might be the case that 3D printing isn’t the only way to do this, but it’s a good way,” says Keith Murphy, a chemical engineer and chief executive of Organovo.

Read more coverage on organ printing.

 Custom lab tools

In the meantime, basic plastic 3D printers are starting to allow researchers to knock out customized tools. Leroy Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow, UK, grabbed headlines this year with his invention of ‘reactionware’ — printed plastic vessels for small-scale chemistry (M. D. Symes et al. Nature Chem. 4,349–354; 2012). Cronin replaced the ‘inks’ in a $2,000 commercially available printer with silicone-based shower sealant, a catalyst and reactants, so that entire reaction set-ups could be printed out. The point, he says, is to make customizable chemistry widely accessible. His paper showed how reactionware might be harnessed to produce new chemicals or to make tiny amounts of specific pharmaceuticals on demand. For now, other chemists see the idea as a clever gimmick, and are waiting to see what applications will follow.

Read more coverage on custom lab equipment.

Via Nature.