regenHU CEO: Bioprinting Will Strengthen OrganTrans Project to 3D Print Liver Organoid

The European consortium OrganTrans is preparing to develop a tissue engineering platform capable of generating liver tissue. The proposed automated and standardized disruptive alternative solution to organ donation for patients with liver disease will stand on 3D bioprinting know-how from Swiss biomedical firm regenHU. Coordinated by Swiss research and development center CSEM, the eight partners and two transplantation centers engaged in the consortium will be using regenHU’s 3D bioprinters to produce organoid-based liver constructs with organoid laden bioinks.

In April 2020, we reported that OrganTrans would tackle the important healthcare challenge of end-stage liver disease (ESLD) by capitalizing on advancements in the regenerative medicine field, like using biofabricated liver tissue, to develop an entire value chain from the cell source to tissue engineering, biofabrication, post-processing and testing, and liver transplantation under the “compassionate use exemption” regulation (which provides an important pathway for patients with life-threatening conditions to gain access to unproven human cells and tissue products). To understand the key role of biofabrication in this innovative project, asked regenHU’s new CEO, Simon MacKenzie, to tell us more about the challenges that lie ahead for the European consortium and his company.

regenHU CEO Simon MacKenzie (Image courtesy of regenHU)

The project officially began in January 2020, what can we expect when it ends in December 2022?

The current goal of this project is to create a functional biofabricated liver construct that can be implanted into a mouse model. I consider that the OrganTrans team will accelerate new solutions for patients with liver failure. It is challenging, but we do envision successful in vivo trials. Of course, this major achievement will not be the end of the story; significant work and research will still be required to transfer these results to human clinical trials. The major remaining challenges will probably be the process scale-up to produce larger tissue and regulatory aspects.

Will this research be groundbreaking to treat liver disease in the future?

Demonstrating the feasibility of the approach in a mouse model will be groundbreaking for the disease because it will demonstrate its potential as an alternative to transplantation. Diseases like NASH [nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, an aggressive form of fatty liver disease] are increasing dramatically, and likely to be a leading cause of death within the next few years. Moreover, the difficulty of detecting the disease until it is potentially too late leads to significant challenges for therapeutic intervention, meaning transplantation will remain the main option for severely affected patients. This well-recognized need, along with the lack of donor organs will ensure bioprinted livers will continue to be well funded. But the value of the project goes beyond liver disease, as the new technologies developed in the frame of OrganTrans will not be limited to liver applications. They relate to the challenges of biofabrication of any organoid-based tissue, which can potentially be beneficial for a large variety of indications.

Can you tell me more about the role of regenHU within the OrganTrans consortium?

Such a complex and ambitious endeavor needs very different and complementary knowledge and competences. Teamwork will be a central element, first to enable, then to accelerate, these new solutions. With this in mind, we have been reorganizing regenHU to bring better project collaborative capabilities to this project, and others like it that we are engaged in. regenHU is a pioneer and global leader in tissue and organ printing technologies converging digital manufacturing, biomaterials, and biotechnology to lead transformational innovations in healthcare. We focus on delivering advancements in the instruments and software required for tissue engineering, and our technology evolving along with the biological research of our partners. We, therefore, consider these partnerships with the scientific community critical for our development.

An outline of the OrganTrans project (Image courtesy of OrganTrans)

regenHU is one of the largest contributors to this project, is this part of the company’s commitment to regenerative medicine?

We can see the need for biotechnology solutions for a wide range of disease states. Our strengths are in engineering the instruments and software necessary to allow the producers of biomaterials and the suppliers of cells to combine their products to achieve functional tissues and organs. Our commitment is to provide disruptive technologies that will enable the community to make regenerative medicine a reality, with precision and reproducibility in mind, for today’s researchers and tomorrow’s industrial biofabrication needs. One of the key challenges is the current limitation in the scale and volume of bioprinting which is linked to the reproducibility of the print. To progress into the manufacture of medical products, bioprinters will need to operate at a scale beyond current capabilities. We design our instruments with these goals in mind and have assembled a team to solve the many challenges to achieve this.

How advanced is the bioprinting community in Europe?

The 3D bioprinting field is several years behind mainstream 3D printing, with the industrialization of the instruments, biomaterials, and cells required before bioprinting can progress to commercial-scale biofabrication. However, as with continued development seen in 3D printing, the technology convergence required for tissue and organ printing that changes medical treatments will become a reality through the efforts of engineering companies like regenHU, biomaterial developers, and human cell expansion technologies, being combined in projects such as OrganTrans.

As the newly appointed CEO of the company, how do you feel taking on this project?

Successfully entering the OrganTrans consortium is just one part of the company. regenHU investors see my arrival as the catalyst to bring regenHU to the next stage in its evolution. Our goal remains the production of industrial biofabrication instruments capable of delivering the medical potential of bioprinting, novel bioinks, and stem cells. To achieve this, we are enhancing the team and structure of the company, bringing forward the development of new technologies and increasing our global footprint to better support our collaborative partners. I have spent many years in regenerative medicine and pharma and can see the potential of bioprinting to revolutionize many areas of medical science, so joining regenHU was an easy choice. As CEO, my main role is to provide the right support structure to enable our entrepreneurial engineering teams to thrive and be brave enough to push boundaries. Additionally, as we cannot achieve our end goal on our own, I am here to nurture the important connections with our user community. Only by listening to their valuable insights and solving problems with them, we will push the technology onward.

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Researchers Develop Workflow for Repeatable Fabrication of PMMA Craniofacial Implants

While 3D printed patient-specific implants (PSIs) are helpful in craniofacial surgeries, it’s not always a practical option due to high costs and, as a research team from Switzerland’s University Hospital Basel puts it, “a lack of expertise.” They published a paper, “Accuracy Assessment of Molded, Patient-Specific Polymethylmethacrylate Craniofacial Implants Compared to Their 3D Printed Originals,” about their work to create a “simple and cost-efficient template-based fabrication workflow” that can help surgeons get past these issues and succeed.

“The aim of this study is to assess the accuracy of PSIs made from their original templates,” the researchers explained.

Cranial defects (CFD) and deformities can cause aesthetic, functional, and psychological problems for patients. A cranioplasty is performed to improve a patient’s neurological status, and to restore the function and structure of the missing cranial bone. PMMA is the most popular alloplastic material for cranial reconstructions, as it’s a cost-effective choice, resistant to functional stress, and is lightweight, yet not thermoconductive. But, intraoperative PMMA molding can be difficult in complicated cases that require a PSI.

“Other problems encountered with PMMA include the excessive heat generated by the exothermic reaction that occurs during the molding process, which might harm the surrounding tissues, or allergic reactions to monomers. In addition, the freehand PMMA molding technique is associated with an increased surgical time and often results in unacceptable cosmetic outcomes. Hence, to mitigate the problems associated with freehand implant fabrication, preoperatively or intraoperatively (extracorporeal) fabricated PMMA PSIs are used,” the team wrote.

3D printed templates for custom, pre-fabricated PMMA implants make the process easier, though there haven’t been many studies evaluating how accurate PSIs are, and if the silicone molds are reusable if the patient requires a revision operation. That’s why the team chose to compare molded PMMA PSIs to 3D printed, virtually designed templates.

3D printed skull models with the defect are. (a) CRD; (b) TOD.

They chose two cases – a CRD and a temporo-orbital defect (TOD) – and imported DICOM data from the CT scans into Materialise Mimics software. After generating a 3D volumetric image of the skull anatomies, and the overall shape of the PSIs, the files were smoothed out and exported in STL format. The templates were printed out of PLA filament on a MakerBot Replicator+, and post-processing was completed to fix little irregularities that occurred. Finally, an EinScan-SP 3D scanner was used to digitize the 3D printed templates, and the resulting point cloud data was converted and exported in STL format.

Twenty PMMA PSIs were made out of a high viscosity bone cement using the silicone molds  – ten each for the CRD and TOD cases. They were digitized with cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), and the CBCT DICOM data was segmented and extracted with Mimics; data from the digitized PMMA PSIs were then exported in STL format.

The team used the Materialise 3-matic analysis program to compare the accuracy of the 3D printed templates and PMMA PSIs.

“The accuracy of the PMMA PSIs was evaluated by superimposing the STL file data of the related template with the STL file data obtained from the CRD-PSIs (n = 10) or the TOD-PSIs (n = 10) test group. For accurate alignment, the datasets of the CRD- and TOD-PSIs were registered with the corresponding 3D printed templates. All registrations were achieved using the “align” feature. Therefore, five manually placed control points in the n-point registration and a global registration were performed,” they explained.

Comparison of 3D printed templates (a, b, beige) with the PSIs according to the n-point registration with five manually placed control points (c, d, purple), and superimposition (e, f). L: cranial template and PSI; R: temporo-orbital template and PSI.

They compared the differences with a maximally tolerated deviation of ± 2 mm, and the measurements were put in a color map.

“Using an identical coordinate system between the datasets, the quantitative values of the deviations were automatically calculated using a 3D analysis program with respect to the root mean square (RMS) values. The RMS values describe the absolute values of the deviations between two datasets. This comparison of the two datasets comprising n-dimensional vector sets provides a measurable value of the similarity after optimal superimposition. The higher the RMS value is, the greater the deviation error between the two datasets will be,” the researchers explained.

The RMS ranged from 1.128 to 0.469 mm, with a median RMS (Quartile 1 to Quartile 3) of 0.574 (0.528 to 0.701) mm for the CRD implants. For the TOD, the RMS was 1.079 to 0.630 mm with a median RMS (Q1 to Q3) of 0.843 (0.635 to 0.943) mm.

Descriptive data distribution illustrating the difference between the CRD-PSIs and the CRD 3D printed template. (a) Mean difference ± SD; (b) Median difference (Q1 to Q3).

Descriptive data distribution illustrating the difference between the TOD-PSIs and the TOD 3D printed template. (a) Mean difference ± SD; (b) Median difference (Q1 to Q3).

You can see in the box plot graph below the quantitative data distribution results of the RMS values for the ten PSIs in the two test groups.

Box plot illustrating accuracy comparison with respect to RMS values between the PMMA CRD-PSI and TOD-PSI test groups (● describes the statistical outlier, CRD-PSI 01).

The deviation analysis for the CRD-PSIs and TOD-PSIs is shown in the heat map below. The blue areas represent negative deviations, and the red show positive. There was a slight positive deviation on the outer surface of the temporal region of the CRD-PSIs, and a slight negative on the inner surface “at the antero- and posterolateral margins.” For the TOD-PSIs, the outer surface of the infra-temporal region had a strong positive deviation, with a negative on the inner surface at the posterolateral margin.

Color-coded deviation maps within each test group after applying best-fit method and generating a 3D comparison to evaluate accuracy. CRD-PSI: (a) squamous (outer) surface; (c) cerebral (inner) surface. TOD-PSI: (b) squamous surface; (d) cerebral surface.

“The present study demonstrates that the described manufacturing process of molded patient-specific PMMA implants based on 3D printed templates is highly precise, with a less than 1 mm deviation evaluated in two different defect patterns. This reflects the results commonly reported in the literature, where the overall inaccuracies of pure 3D printed anatomical models are also less than 1 mm,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, the PSIs are largely consistent with the 3D printed templates in terms of accuracy.”

As patient-specific treatments become more popular in diagnostic treatments and procedures, the demand continues to rise, especially when it comes to cranioplasty. You can easily see the difference between reconstructing a skull defect with a 3D printed PSI, and doing so with an implant manufactured manually. Even after “successive usage of silicone molds,” the study found that the dimensional accuracy of the PMMA PSIs was at a “clinically acceptable accuracy level.”

“The RMS values illustrate that, even after ten impressions (n = 10), the manufacturing method produces no clinically relevant deviations,” the researchers concluded. “Overall, the results suggest that the manufacturing process described in this study is an exact and reproducible technique. The median RMS values for each of the two test groups did not exceed 1 mm, which is an acceptable accuracy for clinical routine in craniofacial reconstruction.”

This workflow is an accurate, repeatable way to use PSIs in anatomical reconstructions, as it reduces time in the OR, makes common materials more available, and the silicone mold can be reused.

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Urban Alps & Fieldmade: 3D Printing Stealth Keys in Remote Microfactories

The award-winning 3D printed Stealth Key by Urban Alps first hit the scene back in 2015, and the Swiss startup – founded by ETH Zürich and EPFL alumni – claims it is the world’s first metal 3D printed key. Made with SLM technology, the patent-protected durable key hides most of its mechanical security features internally, which makes it pretty much unscannable.

The commercially available Stealth Key is truly high security, as it offers ultimate key copy protection with fully invisible security features and doesn’t need any magnets or electronics. Now, Urban Alps is collaborating with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) spinoff company Fieldmade to deploy microfactories that can 3D print the Stealth Keys anywhere, anytime.

Urban Alps founder and CEO Alejandro Ojeda said in a press release, “This collaboration marks the beginning of a new industrial era, where high security mechanical keys are shipped digitally and turned into physical products at the customer’s location, no matter how remote the location – no shipping costs, no customs, immediately, and safe from unauthorized duplication.”

Founded in 2016, Fieldmade creates, manufactures, and sells fully integrated software and 3D printing solutions for deployed use. The company, which offers AM-as-a-service and virtual warehouses in addition to its AM microfactories, has a strong foothold within the NATO AM community, and last year was given its first R&D contract with the Norwegian MoD.

Fieldmade founder and CEO Christian Duun Norberg stated, “Fieldmade’s aim is to find innovative ways to bring more value to the customer, not just a revolutionary key but the benefits that novel additive manufacturing entails, for instance a digital supply chain.”

Fieldmade is a current Urban Alps Stealth Key customer, and now a future producer of the 3D printable high security keys, as the company has selected the Stealth Key as its new microfactory lock system.

“Fieldmade NOMAD systems consist of a series of mobile units designed after MILSPEC principles to be able to function under all possible conditions and still maintain secure working conditions both for machines and personnel. The systems are designed to operate at high demanding requirement sites like offshore installations and production sites,” the company wrote on its website about its microfactories.

Currently, all the available high security keys are made at multiple large factories, and depending on how remote the buyer’s location is, it could take weeks to complete and deliver their orders. In addition, key duplication is a real security threat – it’s unfortunately not that difficult to use an app, a smartphone, and a plastic printer to make unauthorized duplicates of most security keys.

Now, Urban Alps can use Fieldmade’s microfactories to reduce Stealth Key delivery time to a single day.

Ojeda said, “This cooperation is the perfect example of how two innovative companies can complement each other to deliver truly secure products in a matter of hours to customers with high security and time sensitive needs.”

Thanks to these remote microfactories, multiple customers in the energy and military sectors can order 3D printed Stealth Keys on demand, with a rapid turnaround. Additionally, a proprietary software for remote 3D printing enables both CAD and IP security, as it doesn’t require any CAD files to be sent.

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[Images provided by Urban Alps]

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Wolf Schweitzer: “3D Printing is Helping to Develop Forensic Devices”

Post mortem examinations are widely used to determine the cause of death, yet traditional autopsy has changed little in the past century, consisting of external examination and evisceration, dissection of the major organs with identification of macroscopic pathologies and injuries. A few years ago, and in a quest to advance the field of forensic medicine, a team of scientists at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, has been serially developing automated tools and technologies to improve results, reduce costs, and time during autopsies. By combining new technologies, like 3D imaging, scanning, and printing to generate virtual autopsy tools, into what has eventually become a household name in forensics a venture known as the Virtopsy project, or just virtopsy, they are changing the paradigm of forensics.

As part of the Virtopsy project, scientists have come up with creative ways to help the field of forensics, with ideas ranging from a modified automotive robotic arm with tools called Virtobot, to non-invasively discovering injuries present on the skin surface of a body, along with 3D true color representations of surface injuries and 3D scaled models of entire crime scenes and events. One device, in particular, caught our attention, a post mortem computed tomography angiography or PMCTA kit, made using 3D printing and parts that can be found at your local hardware store. The team posted online all of the files and part specifications so that anyone who wants to recreate the PMCTA can do it, for a total cost of just $120. But first, to understand what the device really does, asked Wolf Schweitzer, a forensic pathologist at the University of Zurich and part of the team behind the 3D printed PMCTA, why the device is so important and how disruptive technologies can aid experts to achieve better autopsies.

Production of Very Affordable PMCTA-kits. Left: 3D printing in progress; Middle: finished print batches; Right: kits in process of being packed

Why is the PMCTA important in forensic medicine?

A post-mortem CT is relevant in forensic pathology to examine the body, particularly for the consequences of violence or trauma. The findings add insight and help prepare autopsies so they can be performed faster and with a better focus on what we are looking for. Autopsy diagnosis is often very specific, yet performing it is tedious and time-consuming. For example, a few years ago it took seven hours of careful dissection to find the source of fatal hemorrhage in a body. These types of cases would greatly benefit from a PMCTA. Via an external pump, the vessels of the body are filled with a contrast substance that appears opaque on the computed tomography (CT). Knowledge of the normal anatomy of blood vessels allows examiners to identify certain possible or potential leaks. This means that while using PMCTA, vascular injuries, leaks or other pathologies can be examined. Once they are found, they may be documented or the results may be given to the pathologist who then narrows down the search for the actual autopsy dissection.

Why did you design a low-cost PMCTA for anyone to use?

Resulting PMCTA with a view of the whole body showing contrasted vessels and organs

Specialized commercial devices can be costly and require dedicated and expensive additional installations such as oil separators, consumables, and maintenance. A top of the line PMCTA-pump can easily be worth $80,000, while materials cost around $1,000 per single case or examination. Additionally, users need to install an oil separator to avoid their oil-based contrast agent to leak or get drained into the sewer. While some privileged forensic medicine institutes may find that acceptable, we wondered whether that type of technology was really necessary. So that is why we decided to custom design and 3D print our own immersion pump to be used as a forensic PMCTA and fill in the rest of the materials list with parts from a hardware store, for just $120. The whole idea of providing very affordable PMCTA technology became evident during our Virtopsy courses, for 15 years, specialists and trainees from around the world came to Zurich to attend our courses, and one frequently voiced concern was about the PMCTA, how problematic the oil was to the environment, and how expensive the materials where, so we listened and began evaluating better options.

In the paper Very economical immersion pump feasibility for postmortem CT angiography (that has Schweitzer as co-author) our team at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Imaging concluded that more widespread and systematic implementation of PMCTA demands affordable equipment for facilities with tight budgets. This is why we uploaded everything anyone needs to develop their own PMCTA (the printable 3D models went up as STL-files) online at

How did 3D printing become part of the solution?

Unlike clinical medicine, forensics get lower, more restricted public budgets, motivating us even further to use more affordable means of production, design, and materials. Plus, we often do not need anti-allergic or extensively sterilized catheters or solutions. This means that we can design, 3D print prototypes and test them in one or two days, then revise the design and keep re-iterating until the 3D models (and their 3D printed instances) are ok. Once the 3D printed PLA models are enough for routine work, we use them. We really wanted to get the actual design process first, since having the ability to design hardware prototypes using CAD software is useful anywhere custom parts are needed.

What 3D printers did you use?

For the 3D printing process, we used a MakerBot Replicator 2 (originally built to print ABS, but tweaked to print with PLA) and a MakerBot Replicator+ (fifth generation). PLA feeding was a problem, as the Makerbot printers appeared to have trouble pulling the PLA into the nozzle where it is melted for printing. To work around that, we decided to built PLA-roll mounts with ball joint bearings using available 3D models of Thingiverse. We used 3D printing to get the models’ shape right.

Still, 3D printing spare parts and new add-ons does not end with the PMCTA, the team has also identified a few other applications for 3D printing. For example, they are currently investigating whether it is possible to print skeletal parts (skull and lung bones) to perform bio-mechanical crash or impact tests on 3D printed materials, and verify if they fracture in a similar way as natural bone.

Is there access to technology for forensic medicine? 

Forensic medicine is usually run as a government or state service to examine violent, suspicious, sudden and unclear deaths. Like most scientists and doctors, we are interested in new technologies and love developing and creating new ideas, yet funding is a big factor, as well as structural restrictions or opportunities for research and development of technological advances.

Technologies are not necessarily expensive, anyone can discover free or affordable software and courses and forensic medicine is often embedded in a university or hospital setting so we are really not alone in this mission. Originally, we started with post-mortem CT scanning, using already installed hospital or veterinarian CT scanners (rather than having our own), so we made friends with experts in other departments. We also worked with other engineers, researchers, and specialists, such as Claudio Gygax from 3D-EDU GmbH, who provided technical support and advice. I come from a creative tech household, so building stuff was what everyone else was doing anyway. It is really important to recognize what is missing from an apparently abundant world, to “see” the technical void, to recognize the applied advantage in filling empty space with (initially at least) plastic, and once that is identified, the rest is usually fairly straight forward. This requires teamwork to ignite creative thought and innovation.

Forensic pathology is full of inquisitive and interesting people that go forward to adopt all kinds of useful technologies (without having to spend a lot of money on it). In the end, it really is the investigative mind that makes a difference and there are absolutely wonderful ideas out there to develop even further.

[Images: Virtopsy project, University of Zurich and Wolf Schweitzer]

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Forensic Doctors Used 3D Printing to Create a Low-Cost Post Mortem Set

Criminal investigations, unusual deaths, victims of disasters and hospital quality controls rely heavily on autopsies. In the field of forensic medicine, the body is crucial evidence and provides leads to determine the cause of death. However, forensic medicine costs tend to run high, which is why for a few years a group of experts at the University of Zurich, in Switzerland, has been developing automated tools to perform forensic pathology on corpses. One of the team’s most interesting developments in a series of innovations is a very affordable post mortem computed tomography angiography or PMCTA kit. By combining 3D printing with parts found at any local hardware store, the group of experts has been able to assemble a PMCTA kit for $120. And the best part is that anyone can find the printable 3D models as STL-files and the hardware store obtained parts with their detailed specifications online at

The PMCTA is a useful complement to an actual autopsy, as it helps to increase the quality of post-mortem diagnosis. And while modern imaging techniques like CTs and MRIs are often used in forensic pathology, the PMCTA technique addresses other issues, like soft-tissue contrast and poor visualization of the vascular system, so that by using contrast agents in the body, examiners can identify certain possible or potential leaks. According to a paper entitled Very economical immersion pump feasibility for postmortem CT angiography and published by Wolf Schweitzer, Patricia Mildred Flach, Michael Thali, Patrick Laberke and Dominic Gascho, from the Department of Forensic Medicine and Imaging at the University of Zurich, PMCTA, in general, has become known to help solve particularly tricky forensic pathology cases, even in decomposed bodies.

Michael Thali, chair of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, said that tools like PMCTA “are opening a whole new world of forensics, one that could accelerate the field” and that by “using techniques such as MRI, CT, biopsy, and angiography, we can see 60 percent to 80 percent of the forensic causes of death.”

Today, the PMCTA has become increasingly popular both for research and case investigation. However, the current leading commercial solution for post-mortem angiography is a machine that costs over $80,000, while a single postmortem scanner adds another $500 to the already pricey bill. Specialists at the University of Zurich suggest that such costs are prohibitively high for many forensic pathologists. This is one of the reasons they came up with the idea of a low-cost PMCTA, accessible to any forensic lab around the world.

Production of Very Affordable PMCTA-kits. Left: 3D printing in progress; Middle: finished print batches; Right: kits in process of being packed

The team used hardware store supplies and 3D printing to develop a post mortem CT angiography kit that anyone could create and use for just $120, and they even uploaded instructions online, instead of patenting the device. Parts of the PMCTA kit require a dedicated specific design and built. On the design level, the team originally used a hybrid parametric and direct modeling approach then transferred the design to an STL-formated file for easy use across different software platforms. They used 3D printing to create femoral catheters, a cylindrical push compression fitting, a bucket tube fixture, and vascular tourniquet set.

The PMCTA kit is part of the Virtopsy project, developed by forensic scientists at the University of Zurich around the turn of the Millenium as a multi-disciplinary applied research project to implement imaging modalities from diagnostic radiology and surveying technology in forensic sciences. Since then, the Virtopsy approach has become an emerging if not, the standard procedure in forensic investigations worldwide. The term Virtopsy has actually been used in a variety of settings all over the world and uses advanced technologies to aid and evolve forensics. Virtopsy uses computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, optical 3D surface scanning, 3D photogrammetry and 3D printing to detect and document forensic evidence in a minimally-invasive and observer-independent manner in both the living and the deceased. It is widely used by investigators in criminal cases and in court.

The Virtopsy team

Specialists were able to create a very affordable and functional kit thanks to 3D printing. The kit easily fits into a small suitcase and is neither large nor heavy. Talk about bringing down costs, this PMCTA kit costs less than 1% of a commercial PMCTA available today on the market. There are already so many challenges associated with forensic medicine, especially in developing nations, where funding for this field is not very forthcoming, combined with a shortage of forensic pathologists and technical specialists–a shocking fact, considering how popular the field became after so many tv shows focused on the behind the scenes of CSI and forensics.

Resulting PMCTA with a view of the whole body showing contrasted vessels and organs


In countries like India, for example, there is not only a shortage of forensic experts, mortuaries lack basic facilities and reference material is out-of-date. Moreover, a single mortuary in Barabanki, staffed with one sanitation worker and a single doctor on duty did 972 autopsies in 2017, and that’s just one example, there are plenty more. Advances in technology are a great way to address some of the basic needs of the field, especially when forensic doctors everywhere can download the information and build the kit themselves.

[Images: Virtopsy and University of Zurich]

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Switzerland: Exciting New Technology Multi-Metal Electrohydrodynamic Redox 3D Printing

Researchers from Switzerland explain more about how metals dissolved and re-deposited in liquid solvents can further AM processes by promoting fabrication without post-processing. Their findings are outlined in the recently published, ‘Multi-metal electrohydrodynamic redox 3D printing at the submicron scale.’  This new method allows users to create polycrystalline multi-metal 3D structures from a single nozzle with multiple channels.

The authors point out that additive manufacturing on the microscale is very popular, and especially with expanded capabilities in relation to materials. Users want more—and especially on the industrial level; realistically though, challenges still abound:

“…first, common multi-nozzle approaches enforce extensive practical limits to the complexity of the 3D chemical architecture; second, as-deposited properties of inorganic materials, mostly dispensed as nanoparticle inks, are often far from those demanded in microfabrication, and the hence required post-print processing largely complicates many materials combination,” state the researchers.

The ink-free electrohydrodynamic redox printing (EHD-RP) eliminates these issues in metal, with direct printing and combination of materials from one nozzle. The authors say that their new method offers ‘unmatched control of the 3D chemical architecture of printed structures.’ Many different metals can be used in EHD-RP, with both direct and indirect printing possible.

Electrohydrodynamic redox printing (EHD-RP). a Working principle: (1) Solvated metal ions Mz+ are generated within the printing nozzle via electrocorrosion of a metal electrode M0 immersed in a liquid solvent. (2) Ion-loaded solvent droplets are ejected by electrohydrodynamic forces. (3) Upon landing, Mz+ ions are reduced to zero valence metal M0 through electron transfer from the substrate. Switching the oxidative voltage between different electrodes in a multichannel nozzle enables on-the-fly modulation of the printed chemistry (Schematics not drawn to scale: typical dimensions of the electrode wire are 100 μm × 2 cm). b Typical two-channel nozzle. c Optical micrograph of the printing process. Scale bar: 10 μm. d, e Printing Cu, Ag and Cu–Ag from a single, two-channel nozzle. d Mass spectra of ejected ions when biasing the Cu electrode, the Ag electrode, or both electrodes immersed in acetonitrile (ACN). e Printed Cu, Ag and Cu–Ag pillars with corresponding energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectra reflecting the chemical nature of the respective source electrode (background subtracted). The C–K and O–K peaks likely originate from residual solvent and minor oxidation, respectively. The Cu and Ag contents of the Cu–Ag pillars are given in at.% normalised to the total Cu + Ag signal. Scale bars: 500 nm.

The authors mention that while there is very little lateral misalignment during switching, there has been some indication of minor shifting between the two metals. The authors state that this is usually caused because of the nozzle’s asymmetry. Complexity in geometry and fidelity are not as high as the authors would like either, but they state that this is a common issue in EHD-based microprinting techniques.

Geometrical performance and as-printed microstructure. a Array of 50 × 50 Cu pillars printed with a point-to-point spacing of 500 nm. Scale bar: 5 μm. b Walls printed at decreasing wall-to-wall spacing, with a minimum spacing of 250 nm. Height: ten layers for the leftmost image, three layers for the others. Scale bars: 1 μm. c Printed Cu line less than 100 nm in width. d Cu wire with an aspect ratio of approximately 400. e Overhangs formed by a lateral translation of the stage balancing the out-of-plane growth rate. The sequence of pillars was printed by increasing the respective in-plane translation speed towards the front pillar, with a maximum speed of 2.1 μm s−1. Scale bar: 1 μm. f Concentric, out-of-plane sine waves printed with a layer-by-layer strategy. Scale bar: 2 μm. g As-printed Cu pillar and corresponding cross-section showing the dense, polycrystalline microstructure. Scale bars: 200 nm

This process also improves mechanical and electrical properties, allowing for potential in applications for manufacturing sensors or actuators, optical metamaterials, and small-scale wire bonding. For this study, the researchers only used three metals, but that number could be increased with the use of nozzles bearing additional channels.

“Thus, EHD-RP holds the potential for unlocking unique routes for the bottom-up fabrication of chemically designed 3D devices and materials with locally tuned properties and a rational use of alloying elements. Such materials could find application in catalysis, active chemical devices, small-scale robotics and architected materials that go beyond single-material cellular designs,” concluded the researchers.

While you may look at a term like electrohydrodynamic redox 3D printing and think things are really getting out there now, the idea behind the process is very simple, but two-fold: to both refine 3D printing and additive manufacturing further—and cutting out the much-dreaded post processing processes still prevalent. Researchers have been working on this issue continually, from creating post-processing hardware, to eliminating post processing from color 3D printing to providing automation for dental printers.

Find out more about electrohydrodynamic redox 3D printing here. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at

Additive control of the chemical architecture with a single nozzle. a, b Fast switching between two metals printed from a two-channel nozzle. a Summed mass spectrometry (MS) ion currents of Cu+ (red) and Ag+ (blue) cations ejected upon switching the anodic voltage between a Cu and a Ag electrode at different intervals. Switching between two ejected ion species is highly selective. b Overlaid SE micrograph and EDX elemental map of trajectories printed with the same switching profile as in (a) (Cu-L signal, red, and Ag-L signal, blue). The corresponding EDX line profiles show that the switching between Cu and Ag is resolved up to the smallest pulse width. Scale bar: 2 μm. c, d Examples of chemically heterogeneous structures printed using a single nozzle. c Sequence of pillars with different numbers of Cu and Ag modulation periods. Scale bars: 1 μm. d Out-of-plane Cu wall with the letters ‘Ag’ embedded in silver, printed with a continuous layer-by-layer printing mode

[Source / Images: ‘Multi-metal electrohydrodynamic redox 3D printing at the submicron scale’]


What Would Michelangelo Say? David is Re-Created on the Microscale with Metal 3D Printing

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most well-known renaissance sculptures, created in the very early 1500s from a choice piece of marble. The original, currently on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, stands just a little over 14 feet high and is a masterpiece of a representation from the fable of David and Goliath. The piece was considered so ‘perfect’ upon completion that city council members (including other artists like da Vinci and Botticelli) met for a strategic discussion regarding the best location for such a work, finally settling on the Piazza della Signoria in the center of Florence, Italy.

Now, David has been re-created in miniature via 3D printing, and while one can imagine Michelangelo may have turned his nose up at many an imitator throughout the decades, we are pretty sure he would be fascinated with what a 3D printer can do for artists today, allowing them to use a wide array of materials and create on whim, enjoying completely self-sustained production in the studio. And while artistic expression offers great value to the world, the team at Cytosurge took time out from more scientific and complex endeavors to walk on the creative side, imagining how such a truly epic piece of work came about in comparison to their own efforts:

“During the creative period of Michelangelo (lived 1475-1564) it must have been a huge effort to craft the David sculpture from a solid marble block. The creation and handling of the heavy and bulky work of art must have required some well thought-through handling processes,” states the Cytosurge team in their press release.

“The work presented here required much less effort in terms of handling because the new ‘David’ is tiny in size. However, the engineering behind might have required a similar amount of effort as 500 years ago for the original full-scale David.”

This micro-scale sculpture, created in copper, demonstrates the metal 3D printing capabilities of the FluidFM µ3Dprinter, and allows us to envision how helpful such technology will be in other applications requiring objects manufactured at the nano- or micro-meter. At 700 µm (0.0007 m), the Cytosurge version of the statue of David is the largest item created on the FluidFM µ3Dprinter so far.

“Our deep understanding of the printing process has led to a new way of processing the 3D computer model of the statue and then converting it into machine code. That’s what makes the new David statue so extraordinary,” says Dr. Giorgio Ercolano, R&D Process Engineer 3D printing at Cytosurge AG. “This object has been sliced from an open-source CAD file and afterwards was sent directly to the printer. This slicing method enables an entirely new way to print designs with the FluidFM µ3Dprinter.”

Cytosurge AG, founded in 2009, is headquartered in Switzerland. Their FluidFM μ3Dprinter, in development over the last two years, is a standalone 3D metal printing system relying on a miniature pipette with a narrow opening to perform local electrodeposition of metals. The FluidFM joins the Cytosurge lineup of products including their portfolio of FluidFM probes, the FluidFM Bot and its add-on technology, along with solutions provided through other partners too.

While all some artists need is a pencil or a paintbrush, others employ many different tools and mediums to express themselves. 3D printing presents the opportunity for full-on production, whether users are working with 3D printing pens and alternative materials, designing fashion, or creating massive art installations to impress international eventgoers. Find out more about the intersection of art and 3D printing in metal here. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at

[Source / Images: Cytosurge AD]

Swiss Hospital Will Use axial3D’s Software Platform to Improve Patient Care with 3D Printed Medical Models

[Image: axial3D]

The award-winning, Belfast-based medical 3D printing and healthcare technology firm axial3D is focused on helping the global healthcare industry adopt 3D printing by using its patient-specific medical models to improve surgical outcomes, assist patients and doctors in better understanding ailments and treatments, and facilitate pre-operative planning.

Now, on the heels of a new partnership with Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, the company has announced that it is collaborating with top Swiss medical center University Hospital Basel (USB) in order to improve process management and patient care and outcomes at the hospital’s interdisciplinary 3D Print Lab.

“3D printed models have been shown to help surgeons complete complex life-saving surgeries that would be otherwise impossible,” axial3D’s Ryan Kyle told “University Hospital Basel’s new collaboration with axial3D will help to deliver high-quality 3D printed models much quicker than before.”

The hospital, which has about 7,000 people on staff, is northwest Switzerland’s biggest healthcare facility. Its 3D Print Lab uses patient image data to fabricate realistic anatomical models, and other objects, using a variety of different materials and 3D printing methods. Now it will be using axial3D’s new cloud-based platform, axial3Dassure, to support its 3D printing program.

[Image: University Hospital Basel]

By using axial3Dassure, USB will optimize its 3D Print Lab in order to provide a greater level of performance and patient care. The software, which has an end to end workflow, provides features like processing and quality management, so that hospitals and medical centers can meet their expanding business needs through its powerful analytics. The new axial3Dassure platform will also help support collaboration within the hospital’s 3D Print Lab with such features as email notifications and task-driven workflows.

Daniel Crawford, axial3D

“We are very excited to be working with the team at University Hospital Basel. They are a leading force in medical 3D printing, not just in Europe, but globally, and this alliance will ensure the expertise they have developed can support our company’s growth by informing the ongoing development of axial3D’s software solutions,” said axial3D’s CEO and Founder Daniel Crawford. “With a growing requirement for 3D printing within healthcare, a centralized management platform is necessary for any 3D print lab, which plans to scale and grow in the coming years. University Hospital Basel has taken strides in its commitment to improving outcomes for patients through technology advances in the form of this collaboration.

“Our software will help the hospital gain insight into the statistics and figures usually hidden within data, ultimately allowing them to measure clinical impact and value 3D printing is having for patients. The workflow management capability will allow the hospital to speed up the creation, processing, and delivery of 3D printed models, while ensuring auditability, reliability and standardization.”

By using axial3Dassure software, USB will be able to increase efficiency and improve compliance and productivity. The hospital’s 3D Print Lab, which includes over 20 desktop and industrial 3D printers, will now be better equipped to manage communication, quality control, tracking, and workflow management.

In addition, USB will benefit from the company’s orthopaedic auto-segmentation software module, which is embedded within the axial3Dassure platform. This module will help lower the amount of time that is typically required during pre-production of 3D printing orthopaedic models.

Finally, by partnering with axial3D, USB will be able to speed up the creation, processing, and delivery of its 3D printed surgical guides.

“Our initial focus for the use of 3D printed surgical guides was within the Department of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery where 3D printing has now become routine,” explained Philipp Brantner, Senior Physician of Radiology and the Co-Director of the 3D Print Lab at University Hospital Basel. “Having access to onsite printing has revolutionized how we treat those patients, some who arrive with life-threatening injuries that require immediate action. The functionality that we now get provided will allow us to speed up production and treat patients more effectively and efficiently.”

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