3D Printer - Project Sampler
This page showcases some of the ways campus members have used the AICT
3D printer. These projects fall primarily into the categories of:
visualization of scientific data, models from medical imagers,
reconstructions from archaeological data, the use as a tool in fields
related to art, design, and engineering. 3D printing is still a new
technology, and new applications are being discovered all the time. If
you have some ideas, and would like to know whether the printer could
be useful to you, contact the printer support team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
of Scientific Data:
Researchers at the University of Alberta study the complex interactions
between charged particles and the magnetic fields that extend far into
the upper atmosphere of many planets. Most of these charged particles
are expelled by the sun in the form of solar winds, and interplanetary
coronal mass ejections. This interaction is often visible from the
Earth's surface in the form of the Auroras - the Northern and Southern
The above image shows the complex arrangement of the internal magnetic
field of Neptune F, which is strongly titled relative to the rotational
axis of the planet, and offset from the planet's centre. To the right
is a representation of the field lines of Earth's magnetic field. The
University of Alberta is only institution in Canada working on
three-dimensional global magnetohydrodynamic modelling of the solar
wind interaction with the Earth's magnetosphere. The project makes use
of several High-Performance Computers owned by the University.
see the Space Physics site for more info
Shiga toxin is the multi-part protein, which is produced by some E.
coli and is implicated in so-called "hamburger disease". When
the toxin enters the bloodstream, it is carried by circulation to the
kidney and binds to carbohydrates on cell membranes. Shiga toxin is
then uptaken inside the cells, where it releases an enzymic subunit.
This subunit protein damages the ribosomal RNA resulting in the
shutdown of protein synthesis and cell death.
Dr. Pavel Kitov and his colleagues research inhibitors to prevent the
binding of the toxin to the cell membrane. To enhance the inhibitors, a
second protein called SAP is being tested to create a better antidote.
In the accompanying images the light blue structure is Shiga toxin and
the darker blue is SAP. The inhibitors are red, white and green, while
purple balls are calcium atoms in the binding site of SAP.
More information is available at: www.carbohydratecentre.ualberta.ca
from Medical Imagers (CAT Scans, MRIs):
Modern computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
scanners are able to output data in several 3D model formats that can
be converted into STL or VRML files and printed on the 3D Printer.
Surgeons, for example, can take advantage of these printed models, as
they are now able to physically hold and examine an accurate replica of
an organ, a vertebra, or an entire jaw structure; which is what this
partial skull above right was used for. (Special thanks to Dr. Manuel
Garcia and Dr. Pierre Boulanger for letting us use the CAT scan data).
This nose was created using data from an MRI scan of our very own Jon
Johansson. Maryia Kazakevich imported the data from the dicom files and
created a printable model using OpenDx and Blender.
For more details as to how these models were created, please visit: http://sciviz.aict.ualberta.ca/Samples/3Dobject/
This marine reptile swam in the seas that covered modern Columbia 130
million years ago. After it died, the four-meter long Pliosaur was
covered in sediment, fossilizing the bones over millions of years. In
1967, a team of Columbian palaeontologists excavated the remains. The
fossils remained forgotten in the storage vaults of the Universidad
Nacional de Colombia in Bototá. Student Marcela Gómez
rediscovered it in 2000. In 2004 Gómez brought the fossil with
her on loan to The University of Cambridge's Sedgwick Museum, where it
This scaled-down version is derived from the scanned data. For more on
Sedgwick's pliosaur fossil, see http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/press/dpp/2004010802
Maryia Kazakevich and Dr. Jon Johansson of AICT worked with Dr. Kelvin
Jones of the Department of Biomedical Engineering to create a computer
model of a motor neuron. The team built this model based on calliper
measurements carefully taken from a bisected motor neuron of a cat
spine. Working with AVS/Express, they applied a mathematical equation
to these measured points to develop a smoothed, interpolated model of
the neuron for use in computer modelling and animation.
Dr. Jones' work focuses on the propagation of electromagnetic pulses
between neurons, and the computer model will help his studies in this
regard. The printed model is based on the same data, and represents
only a small portion of the interior of the neuron. Kazakevich and
Johansson built this model as an educational demonstration, and
included a cage to support the delicate dendrites.
of Alberta Biomedical Engineering Website
In the University of Alberta's Physiology department, Dr. Arthur
Prochazka and his colleagues are using the 3D Printer to construct
prototypes of transmitters and muscle-stimulator control devices. Dr.
Prochazka's work includes a "Bionic Glove" used by C5-C6
quadriplegic people, and a similar "Impact Cuff" for
hemiplegic people. The user wears a glove with an in-built stimulator
that is connected by electrodes to several muscles in their arm. A
second device, worn on the ear, detects tooth-clicks and sends a signal
to the stimulator in the glove to cause the user's arm to open, close,
The designs are first modelled in the computer program Rhino, then
manufactured using the 3D Printer. The team infiltrates the models with
epoxy, then sands, buffs, and treats them with ski wax to ensure they
are smooth. Following treatment, they can be used either as functional
objects, or as molds for the rubber components, or even to make
"Having the 3D Printer on campus is invaluable to our work. It is
always there when we need to use it." says rehabilitation engineer
Michel Gautier.For more information on Dr. Prochazka's work, please see his
This model was originally created in 1994 by Greg Turk and Marc Levoy
of Stanford University for a paper on creating polygonal models from
range scans. Since 1994, the Stanford Bunny has been one of the most
commonly used reference models in testing computer graphics techniques.
Nathan Funk of the University of Alberta used the 3D Printer to create
a plaster replica of the original terracotta figure. This printed model
was used for his M.Sc. Thesis, "Using a Raster Display Device for
Controlled Illumination," to compare images scanned using his new
technique to the actual 3D model. The original 3D model is found at the
Stanford 3D Scanning Repository at http://graphics.stanford.edu/data/3Dscanrep/
the Architecture of Kastro Kallithea, Greece:
Since 2004, the University of Alberta has operated a Classical
Archaeology field school in associated with the Urban Survey at Kastro
Kallithea, in Central Greece. Project director Dr. Margriet Haagsma of
the Department of History and Classics is studying the archaeological
and architectural remains in order to understand the site's context in 4th
Century BCE Thessaly.
Working with Chris Want of AICT, Dr. Haagsma and her students studied
the remains of structures from the site in order to model what they
believed these structures looked like twenty-three centuries ago,
including a public building in the ancient agora and the east city gate.
"I believe that both the modelling program Blender and the 3D
printer are wonderful educational tools." says Dr. Haagsma.
"They not only afford students the opportunity to reconstruct
three dimensionally the original state of often abstract archaeological
remains, but also oblige them to actively rethink the actual process of
reconstruction. It is this process which is one of the most difficult,
but also one of the most rewarding and informative aspects of
archaeology. Making a model forces you to thoroughly think through
every assumption you have about the remains you discovered and the
society they belong to, but prior to the computer technology now
available modelling was usually far too time consuming and expensive to
The 3D Printer has many applications in archaeology, including making
models of buildings, terrain models, as well as replicas of artefacts,
from vases to arrowheads.
a replica of the Ferryland Cross:
(The following excerpts are from the Ferryland
The original object, "a nine-inch metal cross, was discovered
during excavation of the ruins of the Ferryland colony, about 80 km
south of St. John's, Newfoundland. Founded in 1621, Ferryland was one
of the first permanent English settlements in Canada."
"Realizing that this unique artifact was susceptible to further
decay, conservators at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa
decided to create a replica. That is when they contacted Chris Want,
administrator and operator of the AICT 3D printer, a machine that
constructs plaster models from digital data files."
"'The researchers felt that the cross is so deteriorated that it
won't be around much longer,' says Want. 'They wanted to have a
The original cross was scanned using a 3D scanner, which creates a
digital copy of an object's geometry. The data was then sent to AICT
and the replica printed on our first 3D Printer, which could only print
off white models.
Conservation Institute article on the Ferryland Cross
Design, and Product Engineering:
The AICT 3D printer has become an "extremely important"
teaching tool in the Department of Industrial Design, according to
Professor Cezary Gajewski. The printer allows the forty-odd students in
Gajewski's classes to quickly create detailed "white models"
of their product designs. Such models are common in commercial
industry, where they are used to determine whether designs have the
needed ergonomic qualities, fit and texture.
Gajewski points out that students in his Department have always made
such models, but that the 3D printer has cut production time from days
"In the world of design, time is a precious commodity," says
Gajewski. He explains that the time students save by using the printer
can be put back into design development, "which ultimately
enhances their designs."
"Changes and corrections to designs are also much easier with the
printer," he adds. "I think there will be more usage of this
service across the campus once people grasp how to use it." The
Department of Industrial Design is one of the primary users of the 3D
Printer. Student product designs, such as soap dishes, toothbrush
holders, and razors are prototyped using the printer, which can also
print colours and textures, helping to visualize the final product.
This model was designed and printed by Ian Campana, a fourth-year
Industrial Design student. Campana's goal was to redesign a bicycle
frame. Working first from sketches, Campana created a digital 3D model,
then printed the final product as this 1/4 scale plaster model to see
how the redesigned frame would fit with the other parts of the bike.
The project demonstrates both the strengths and limitations of the 3D
printer. The model is extremely delicate and detailed, but the spokes
are not truly to scale. Spokes are extremely thin relative to the other
parts of a bicycle, and the wheels of a uniformly 1/4 scale model would
be too fragile to print successfully.
of Alberta Department of Art and Design
Dr. Tim Joseph, a professor of Mining Engineering at the University of
Alberta, and Director of the Alberta Equipment-Ground Interactions
Syndicate, and Mr. Ning Shi are responsible for designing this new
bucket for power shovels, which are used in the tar sands in northern
These large buckets are mounted on some of the largest power shovels
(100 tons) in the world, to remove soil or rock
from the surface and deposit them in some of the largest dump trucks
in the world (400 tons).
"We have used the 3-D printer to produce several versions of the
geometry and generate small giveaways for industry to take away and
provide feedback." says Dr. Joseph. "Using the 3-D printer as
a tool for promoting a project has been invaluable in gaining in-kind
financial support for this project.
Engineering at the University of Alberta
Colin Winslow designed this set for Nuova Opera's production of
"Don Giovanni" using AutoCAD 2000. Theatre designers
regularly use CAD software to produce plans and working drawings, as
well as 3D computer models of their sets. In addition, set designers
need a tangible model of their sets to provide to the carpenters,
painters, and lighting technicians, whose construction of the real set
is dependent on the model. Now, with the 3D printer, designers like
Colin can take their designs and print off a scale model of their
Since printing off the Don Giovanni set using AICT's first 3D printer,
Colin discovered a more efficient use of the technology. Many aspects
of the Don Giovanni set, such as the flat walls, can be easily and
cheaply constructed using traditional methods and materials like
cardstock and foamcore. However, for intricate parts,especially scale
furniture, the 3D printer has proven very handy. For one set model,
Colin needed around one hundred scale chairs, which would have taken an
inordinate amount of time by hand. The 3D printer was able to construct
them in an afternoon. To achieve an exact finish and colour, important
in building the final set, Colin likes to paint them by hand, though is
eager to experiment with the new printer's ability to print in colour.
views on the 3D Printer