Using MRI data to reconstruct 3D skull | 3M BIC

3D skull

The 3M BIC’s design team created a 3D skull using data from a colleague’s CT scan. The in-house project was executed to demonstrate how 3D printing has advanced and how powerful 3D design can be in the medical industry. Primarily, this type of project is used for maxillofacial reconstruction as a way of repairing broken bones.


To convert the raw data from the MRI (DICOM data) to a 3D printable file, 3M BIC’s in-house design team used a free software called OsiriX to assemble the layers of the scan and create a 3D model. The software allowed them to choose parts of the scan determined by the tissue density such as bone, muscle, skin or vascular tissue – the team chose to focus on the bone density.



The team exported the CT data file as an STL and imported it into 3DS Max. To correct inaccuracies of some surfaces due to lack of data, they used a combination of Z-Brush and 3DS Max, designing implants in 3DS Max to cover the errored surfaces, then importing them into Z Brush to smooth the implants into the model – a process similar to that used to create 3D implants for real fractured skulls.


The team printed two life sized 3D skulls. One version was created using an SLS powder print composed of a nylon powder (pa2200 polyamide) printed on an EOS p110 housed on the 3M BIC’s Innovation Avenue. The other an FDM print from the latest generation of MakerBot printers using PLA (polylactic acid).  The SLS version of the skull had the greater detail, however, the FDM print, which took over 50 hours to complete, highlighted the advancement and future possibilities of FDM printers.


What the Client Said...

“Our Skull project is not only a great showcase for 3D printing, but also underlines how 3D design can be incorporated into the healthcare industry. If doctors can view CT and MRI scan data more freely in 3D it would give them a greater understanding of a patient’s condition and refine the process of reconstructive surgery.” 


Janine Downs
Technology Manager

See our other Case Studies

Low volume 3D printing to show metal additive manufacturing post-processing | Holdson
17th April 2024
3D printed prototype of ceiling rose adaptor | Connect VM
20th March 2024
Using MRI data to reconstruct 3D skull | 3M BIC
4th March 2024

Book a Tour

Come and join the 3M BIC Team to explore our pioneering technology, high-spec meeting rooms and an array of office space.

You will get the chance to explore our high-spec meeting spaces that are fully equipped with the latest AV Technology, State of the art labs and our available office space.