Biomedical Use of 3D Printing

The medical uses of 3D printing have grown significantly in the past few years with advancements in the technologies available. Not only can exact versions of patient organs be printed using a variety of materials, but there have been advancements that have allowed for real organs to be printed to replace the originals. Also, stem cells, blood vessels, tissues, cartilage, bones, and cancer cells are being printed.

Biomedical imaging is the main source for the files needed to be able to print the organs, cells, tissues, etc. Some types of biomedical imaging include CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds. Most of these produce DICOM (.dcm) files that can be viewed in OsiriX and edited in Meshlab, both free-to-download software that I used in my research.

1st attempt: Human Skull

Very early on in my research, I learned that DICOM files are hard to find without patient permission and many of the files are hard to work with. My first type of file that I learned how to use the software with was a human skull.

I started in OsiriX and produced a 3D rendering that was very easy to work with since it had very little editing involved. Here is a progression of the file:

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3D surface rendering in OsiriX

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Edited file in Meshlab

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Edited file in Maker software







I found out quickly that while the skull was easy to edit, it was not going to print without some major cuts and super glue.

2nd attempt: Human Heart

I decided to challenge myself to a more advanced file to learn more about the software and the world of biomedical 3D printing. I chose to work with a heart because I knew it was a little more interesting than a skull, but I was not prepared for all the challenges that comes with editing an organ file.

First of all, finding a heart file that rendered clean was pretty much impossible with the resources I had. Most files came up very messy or were not what I was looking for. Also, once I had a file, it was basically impossible to edit to a printable form. Here’s my attempt to edit a human heart:

3D rendering in OsiriX

3D rendering in OsiriX

Edited version in Meshlab

Edited version in Meshlab







Clearly, there was not much I could do with the file I had. There was too much to work with and I didn’t know enough about the file or the software to make it printable.

Final attempt: Human Brain

After a lot of frustration working with heart files, I talked with a good friend of mine from back home who is studying medicine at another university. She was very interested in my project and told me she had some MRI scans laying around from a few years ago. She was a pleomorphic liposarcoma patient and went through 2 surgeries in 2009. The files she gave me were from a check up in 2012.

Her cancer was below her cheek, so the MRI was from her neck up and cut off the very top of her head. This was semi-unfortunate for me, but I still wanted to work with her files because of the story behind it. She is now a 5 year cancer survivor and I was excited to see what I could do with her MRI. Here is a progression of the file:

2D rendering without editing in OsiriX

2D rendering without editing in OsiriX

3D surface rendering in Osirix without editing

3D surface rendering in Osirix without editing

2D slice with individually edited out non-brain parts

2D slice with individually edited out non-brain parts in OsiriX

3D surface rendering of edited version in OsiriX

3D surface rendering of edited version in OsiriX

Ready-to-print file in Maker software

Ready-to-print file in Maker software

Successful print

Successful print

















The top of the file being cut off in the MRI was almost helpful with the actual print because it created a flat surface. I would have liked to have a complete brain, but what ended up printing was enough for me to be satisfied. Also, I learned that it is possible that I cut out too much while I was editing the individual slices, so more knowledge with MRI scans is encouraged before taking on this type of project. But, overall, I am thrilled with the results and I’m excited to give my friend a 3D print of her brain!

Biomedical 3D Printing Community

While there are not many resources to get the files necessary to 3D print organs and such, the small community that exists for this type of work is amazing. I found a great resource here: This resource includes blogs, forums to ask questions, and a source for files ready for printing. It’s great to see that there are people out there that want to teach what they know about 3D printing and making it useful in the biomedical field.

I am very interested to see where biomedical 3D printing goes in the coming years. I believe it will continue to grow and become even more popular as the technology advances.

I encourage anyone interested in the topic to explore the basic software and try out 3D printing at the Maker Lab or your local Makerspace. I’ve learned a lot from just messing around with the different functions in the software, and there are some tutorials that go step-by-step online that are pretty useful for beginners. If you are interested in hearing more about my research, feel free to contact me at or via twitter @ARoseK10.

Making 3D Printed Prosthetics with e-NABLING the Future

A selection of the hands available on e-NABLING the Future’s website

This semester Nora and I worked with Enabling the Future on designing and printing 3D prosthetics. Nora found the company and Vishal helped with getting in touch with the e-NABLE team at SXSW. From there we had our first assignment. In order to be certified by e-NABLE to make prosthetic devices for real people, we had to first print and assemble a prototype hand. The designs are premade so they just need to be printed. In some cases, the hands or fingers need to be resized to fit the end user. Our first hand was called the Raptor Reloaded, printed in black and blue filament. Printing the materials was quite easy compared to assembling the hand. The instructions were available online with detailed pictures and descriptions. The assembling process taught us a lot about how best to make the hand and what were some obstacles that we faced. For example, a lot of the parts needed to be filed down so that it would fit easily together. We also worked with the tensioning in the fingers so the hand would move properly and learned how to tie some pretty complicated sailor knots that the site suggested we use for the hand.

Our first Raptor Reloaded part-way through assembyl


After the first hand was sent in, we decided to print another Raptor Reloaded to be used as a sample in the Maker Lab for future students that are interested in the project. The process was very similar to the first one except we didn’t have all of the assembling materials needed for the hand such as the strings, screws, and Velcro. Enabling the Future sells packages that cost around $25 for materials for the Raptor Reloaded. Instead of buying another package, we improvised with some of our own materials. Feel free to check out the hand in the Maker Lab during open hours!

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Our second Raptor Reloaded

Towards the end of the semester, the e-NABLE team got back to us about a real recipient, his name is Bruce and he is a 53 year old male from North Carolina. He is missing three of his fingers on the right hand, so instead of making a prosthetic hand we were tasked with making replacement fingers. Some sizing needed to be done in the fingers, but other than that the prints were ready. The instructions for the Owen Replacement Finger were also available online; however, they were not as detailed as the Raptor hand. We also had to improvise on getting the necessary materials such as a glove, needle and thread, and elastic, which were not available in a pre-made kit for this type of hand.

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Our first recipient’s hand without a prosthetic and the Owen Replacement finger hand

One Door Closes, and Many More Open: Digital Making 2015

Time has flown by and the end of the semester is quickly approaching. Though this is a relief in some of my classes, in Digital Making it is a sad goodbye. I signed up for the class wanting to learn all I could about Digital Making, and am going to miss having three hours set aside every Tuesday afternoon to do just that.

Some of the projects I worked on during my Digital Making semester.

This class has definitely been a journey for me and has taught me about a whole new world of resources (and people) out there that will be helpful to me as I continue my making journey here at UIUC and beyond. From gaining new knowledge about 3D modeling and printing through the BIF MakerLab classes and our session with Autodesk, to learning all about scanning and preparing them for printing in our sessions with the Beckman Lab, to discovering the plethora of resources-including digital embroidery machines, laser cutters, and Arduinos (to name a few)-available to us through the Champaign Urbana Community Fab lab, to learning all about the amazing organization that is e-NABLING the Future through my semester-long project, my Digital Making semester has truly been an eye opening experience. Its sad for me to see the semester ending feeling like there’s so much more to learn, but I definitely feel prepared to do so if I can get myself to set aside the time.

If there’s one key thing I took away from this semester it is not to be intimidated to try things out. Though the idea of building 3D printed prosthetic hands, or creating something with a laser cutter, or coding an Ardiuno to sense light levels would all have sounded super intimidating to me at the start of this spring, I’ve done all of these things in Digital Making and none of them were really that hard! Moving forward, I’m definitely going to have a much easier time taking on scary sounding projects and using the resources available to me to figure out how to make them a reality. One example of this is a project I’m thinking about taking on myself this summer: building a 3D printer from scratch. My department offers some small grants for students to take on research and projects over the summer, and as soon as I saw the email about the offer I thought, “There has to be some way I can use this to continue with Digital Making!.” Not long after Vishal posted something about building a $200 3D printer and immediately I thought, “This is perfect!”. I’m still waiting to hear back from my advisor about sponsorship, but I think this is a great example of how I’ve grown. Building a 3D printer would have sounded crazy to me before this class, but now I’m thinking of it as an adventure I could definitely figure out with some persistence.

And I see that as just the start. I still have three more semesters to spend time tinkering at the CU Fab Lab and now working at the BIF MakerLab and lots of projects I want to take on and tools I want to explore. This curiosity in combination with the people I’ve meet-both inside the class and outside of it-are a great starting point for me to take my making skills and knowledge to the next level. And its obvious I’m not the only one who feels that way. Through my classmates presentations in our last class reflecting on their semester long projects and their own journeys of learning and their own recent reflections, it seems pretty clear that I will not be the only one hanging out in the MakerLab next semester.

Its very exciting to see how everyone has grown and interpreted the class materials in their own unique way. From Kays project Making 3D art with Math to Arielle and Cos. project making wheelchair racing gloves with 3D printing and scanning, we’ve each brought making skills into our life in different (and awesome!) ways. For me personally this has been a great addition to my concentration in Product Design and a very interesting way to apply my engineering education to actually making real things (something that doesn’t happen very often in theoretically-focused undergraduate classed). Talking to additive manufacturing-focused companies and visiting Deloitte through this class has opened my eyes to the new areas of opportunity opening up to people with making knowledge and has helped encourage me to seek out and apply for opportunities in this area-like hackathons and additive manufacturing related jobs and internships. Already a number of doors have been opened to me, including the opportunity to attend hackathons at Stanford and NYU Abu Dhabi and the grant I mentioned earlier on, partially because of the new skills I’ve gained in this class. All in all, it has been a very productive semester and I am looking forward to all the making opportunities and projects the future holds for me.

Week 16 Reflection – Project Final Post

During the last week of the course, we have given final portfolio presentation to the public. Besides the entire class and Professor Sachdev, we also welcomed Fab Lab staffs, professors from other sections, and a career advisor to attend the presentation. I participated the CU Make – Make a Thon event. Jill, Kavin and I are the team.

Our project called BeanGrip. It is a silicon based grip helper for people with weak arm muscles. It took us three weeks to come our the final prototype. The process began from model design, dimension setup, and issue diagnose to computer moulding, 3D prototype printout, and final adjustment. Though we was not able to display our final version of the project at the presentation because of 3D printer problem, the technologies we learned, skills we practiced, and fun we shared will be appreciated.

At the presentation, Kavin introduced the idea and purpose of our project, I explained the dimension measuring process whereas Jill talked about design and molding process. We nailed our presentation with attractive and clarified information.

11208860_10155954739645131_1799965470_n11262234_10155954740155131_722896741_nThese are photos taken after the class with Professor Sachdev, Kavin, and Jill. Thanks to the course for introducing all of you talents to me. I appreciate the help you guys offered me and the knowledge I gained from the course. It is an amazing experience to be the fist generation of Digital Making Seminar. Wish you all a great summer. Hope to see you soon.

With love and affection.

Learning the Ropes of Making

Digital Making has been a true experience for me.  Entering the class I had no idea what 3D printers were capable of doing and how the entire process worked.  What I also did not know was that Digital Making involved so much more then 3D printers, including, digital embroidery, laser etching, sewing, metal fabrication, arduinos, and 3D modeling.  My learning curve was established when in the first couple weeks of class we had a skype call with a Professor from Indiana University and she told us that grade school kids were learning by “making things”.  I was shocked to hear that young kids were learning tangible skills like sewing, 3D printing, crafting, etc.  My learning curve was established.  Starting off, I gained an understanding of 3D modeling and scanning, printed off my first 3D object and thought I had a solid base of knowledge.  What I did not understand was what separated my prints from all the others? Anyone can go on and download the print file and print the same exact thing.  From here on out, about week 3 or 4 of Digital Making, I decided I needed to add creativity and a special touch to my makings.  My first special design touch came while modeling and printing my upper body and head.  I made a major leap of faith and added my initials on my back! Wow what a crazy addition.


My next test of design came with modeling in Autodesk Fusion 360.  We were challenged to model an object form scratch and incorporate skills used in our Fusion workshop.  I started with a cube and ended with a toothbrush holder.  Again, not super creative at all, but I measured it so it would only fit my specific toothbrush.  Making the holder specific to my toothbrush gave me a good feeling that I had design a perfect product for me and I felt the maker buzz because of that.  See toothbrush holder below:

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After working with Autodesk for a couple weeks, we visited Beckman’s 3D modeling lab. Looking back  I was not too found of working at Beckman because it was less hand ons then what the rest of the semester had in store.

After Beckman we entered into the Champaign-Urbana Fab Lab section of the class.  3 weeks at the Fab Lab allowed us to work on metals, arduinos, digital embroidery, and laser etching.  My experiences at the Fab Lab brought out the true “maker” in me and took my personal design to the next level.  The second week at the Fab Lab, digital embroidery, was were I truely felt like I had created a unique and well designed item.  To start, I chose an image of house off of google, imported it into paint and customized the image to my perfection.  I added a waving person in the window, changed to colors of the house to red, with brown accents, and gave it a brick style of stitching. See image below:


I was pumped to have an item that felt so at home with me and personalized to my choice.  Next came laser etching, another creative experience for me.  I chose to start with a silhouette of the Chicago skyline and began modifying my image in InkScape.  I readjusted the color ratios at least five times until I felt it was perfect, deleted sail boats, and added the sun and a yacht.  I thought the best views of the Chicago skyline I have ever seen are when the sun is shining and tons of boats are out on the water.  Finally, I added a Cubs and Bulls logo to the back, another special touch.  Finishing the laser etch, I felt like a true maker and excited to have been able to be apart of such a cool experience. See the images below:

IMG_5218 IMG_5217

The final segment of the class was turning my 3D head model into a wall hanging and wrapping up my group project.  I decided to turn my 3D head model into a 3D printed wall hanging to have a displayable object from class in my apartment for everyone to see.  Here is a link further explaining the project: 3D Print a Wall Hanging of Your Head

The print turned out great, see the model below:

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Wrapping up the group project, 3D printing wheelchair racing gloves, was a lot of fun. Week after week it was exciting to hear about Arielle’s, project teammate and wheelchair racer, races using her new 3D printed gloves. Working with Sebastian, other project teammate, and Arielle gave me two other perspectives on how to go about 3D modeling and printing an object. The project was a success and will continue on as Arielle and the crew at Beckman, who 3D scanned her original gloves, works to 3D model the rest of the racing team.

Overall I have grown tremendously in how I approach projects.  After a semester long of making, I believe all my projects, whether for work or school, from here on out, should be given my personal design and touch.  The personal design I have nurtured and grown in Digital Making will stay with me forever and I better prepared to create anything from the ground up here on out.  Skills I learned about design and modeling can be applied to most anything in my future.  Looking forward, I want to 3D print items necessary to life, but that would usually be bought at the store.  For example, next time I need a clothes hanger, I can 3D print it instead of buying it at the store!

The Filament War of 2015

So bean prototype number 2 was a bit of a bust. The bean printed way too small, and the support material was impossible to remove from the center. We THINK we got the final product ready to rock though! We redid the cad model, again, making it a little bigger, and rounding it a bit more. Thankfully it’s a simple enough design that this process isn’t super tedious. With a new filament in hand, I marched on over to the FabLab to put an end to it all.

The new filament was a super-cool flexible filament known as Filaflex, by Recreus, a company out of Spain. The diameter of the filament was too thick for the Makerbots, so this was a job for the FabLab team. I brought it in, and we did our research. We had to download the proper settings for it, and we spent forever figuring out perfect extrusion temperature, how to make it work, the best way to orient the figure, and then we pressed the big “PRINT” button, and waited. Problem, it didn’t stick to the bed. By that point, the lab was closing and we had to reconvene the next day.

Upon reconvening, they had broken the glass bed with a different print in the day and the glass they replaced it with was just too big. We made it work and got it leveled, struggled with the extrusion temperatures, and again, the lab closed. I promise I wasn’t going last minute, this process just ended up being super lengthy. In the end, we couldn’t make the filament work in time for Tuesday’s class. I’m heading back today to continue the battle and hopefully, we’ll have a squishier version of the gripping bean that works!

Reflection Week 15

What a semester!

Tuesday we will be having our big show and tell event to share the variety of our learning in Digital Making Seminar with special guests from the University and the community. I think the visitors to the MakerLab will be quite impressed with our work and excited to watch the programming at the MakerLab grow in the coming semesters.

The unique thing about DMS this semester is the variety of learning that has taken place. Though we were all in the same place on a weekly basis, we all had our own tracks in terms of our semester projects and direction we would go with for each lesson. I personally found myself exploring the industrial applications of 3D printing when I took Deloitte University’s “3D Opportunity” course that broke down the different ways that additive manufacturing is effecting the business world. It was neat to be able ot juxtapose the business savvy I picked up in that course with the activities I participated in with DMS. In particular, I got a strong feeling as to how these technologies are empowering and enabling the everyday maker when I got to use tools like 3D printers, 3D scanners on iPads, lazer cutters and electronic stitching machines. These technologies are becoming increasingly cheap, easy to use and are decentralizing the very nature of manufacturing.

The best  part about this course is that I’ve been able to learn from the projects and tracks of others too! Anyways, here is a video I made for the course. Figured it’d be a good way to get other people on board for future semesters 🙂


Week 15 Reflection

During this week’s lecture, the class continued on finishing individual’s final projects. My team was almost done. Instead of updating our project, I would like to share some information about a special 3D printer with you. It’s called Cocojet. 3D Systems released it on January 6, 2015 at Rock Hill, California. According to 3D Systems, Cocojet is a chocolate 3D printer developed in collaboration with The Hershey Company, at the 2015 International CES, at Sands Expo, booth 72225. Ideal for the baker or chocolatier, the CocoJet prints custom designs in dark, milk or white chocolate. Here’s the look:

cc  Impresora_Chocolate Screen-Shot-2015-01-14-at-8.17.34-AM

It looks like a Makerbot to me, which helps me to imagine how it works. Sometimes, I felt addict to chocolate. If I had a Cocojet at home, i would make chocolate with different shapes, tastes, and sizes. It will make the process of producing chocolate become efficient, easy, and fun. Maybe you are also interested in making chocolate with 3D print technology, please check 3D Systems website and look for more news about Cocojet and other latest 3D printer.


Missed class + Deloitte Greenhouse = Wk 14

I’ll admit to having missed class and then regretting it when my final grade popped up on Compass, but very rarely do I regret missing class for its content. One of those few times was this past week, when my roommate ran out of gas near Rantoul and my subsequent rescue mission put me well past the ‘attend class’ time zone. Thankfully, it was my turn to learn about digital fabrication at the FabLab, so attending a workshop later should rid me of my regret. Now onto the cool part – the Deloitte Greenhouse (and I’m not just calling this cool because of my impending employment at Deloitte).

The Greenhouse in Chicago is run by none other than an alum from our College of Business – Nick Murphy. He describes it as a space to break free from the typical restrictions of brainstorming and use the technology present in the lab to come up with solutions to unique business challenges. It is also a lab that studies how disruptive technologies (read AM) will affect today’s businesses. We were briefed on three new technologies at Deloitte’s lab – AM, Augmented Reality and Visual Interpretations of Data. We even had the opportunity to work in teams to solve a mini-case regarding incorporating these technologies into Ameren’s business and ow these could be used to better respond to power outages. It was well worth the seven hours of driving and you should make it there sometime if you haven’t already.

Week 14

This week I tried laser cutting. It was very simple to do it. First I chose a black/white picture, added some labels and then it was ready to go on a laser cutting machine.



It literally took about a minute to engrave the picture on a notebook.


Here is the final product.


Something interesting I learned was that it is even possible to do laser cutting on a round objects such as wine glasses. In order to do that the part of the laser machine where the objects is put should be changed to another special round part that will allow to engrave things on round objects. I think it is a great and cheap way to make personalized gifts for friends and family.