We continue our quest to experiment with a wide variety of materials for 3DP.  This story starts almost one year ago.   While teaching our Advanced RP/RM (rapid prototyping/rapid manufacturing) course,  I was discussing the course requirements.   One our of requirements is an independent research project and report to be undertaken in teams of two (the project is worth 40% of your grade).   As an instructor, I would ask the class  at every meeting if they had any ideas for a project.

One of the teams (composed of Juliana Meira do Valle and Michael Storey) approached me after class, “We would like to print in bone as our project!”  Juliana is a DXArts/Art major and Michael is a Mechanical Engineering major.

“We’d like to print in bone!”

“What?” “Why?”

“I want to print bones or animals that never existed!” “Do you think it’s possible?”

“Sure, OK!”

“How do we get started?”

“We’ll need to find the material in the correct powder size and then you will start bench testing it”

It took a couple of days of internet searching to find a supplier of powdered bone and then came the interesting questions.

“Where did the bone come from?”

“Wow, it’s food grade.”  “Why would you eat it?”

After we located a good source of powdered bone meal (start with your local health food or vitamin store), they started bench testing the bone with an array of adhesive powder and various binder solutions.   This process took place across a five week period.   Each week a different set of adhesive ratios was tested against our existing binders.   Success!!!

Initial Bone Recipe

Powdered Bone Meal  — 5 parts by weight.
12x Powdered Sugar  —  1 part by weight.
MaltoDextrin              —- 1 part by weight.


Bench Testing

We loaded up the 3D printer with a bone powder mixture and used an existing binder solution.  Let’s just say our first 3D printing tests were not terribly successful. The parts were so weak that any contact caused crumbling, and we could not remove the parts from the powder bed. However, the bone  powder mix spread extremely well, produced a nice surface finish on the printing-bed surface.  The parts needed to be strong enough to survive general human handing, depowdering, and post processing.   Finally, really results!

But WAIT!  After the first parts were printed, there was a long pause and a sigh heard from Juliana.

“I don’t know what to do here.”  “I don’t know how I feel about touching these parts.”


“I’m a vegetarian!”


Printed Bone Skulls! Is there any other choice?

As time has passed in our lab, we’ve found some more interesting (and aggressive)  adhesives – namely UreaFormaldehyde (UF) glue. A urea formaldehyde resin or glue (also commonly called a urea glue or a UF) is also called “plastic resin glue”. This product is sold as a water soluble wood glue. A quick test with bone powder has shown that very strong parts can be produced using UF.

Secondary Bone Recipe

Powdered Bone Meal  — 4-5 parts by weight.
UF plastic resin glue   —  1 part by weight.


Juliana’s work which was displayed at the Fresno, CA show organized by Laura West proves that 3DP in Bone is possible with amazing results.

2010 J. Meira Do Valle – Bones in Bone (photo Laura West @ 2010)




23 Comments on Bone Yard – 3DP in Bone

  1. busyhands says:

    This raises some REALLY interesting possibilities. Art, of course. But what about museum exhibits? What about medical applications?

    And, of course, the Million Bones Project.

  2. Kevin Smith says:

    This has become one of my favorite blogs. The sheer number of interesting new directions that the students have explored keep me coming back for more. Your lab must be a really fun place to be.

    • admin says:

      Kevin, thanks. Someone pointed out your comment on the reprap blog regarding our team. We know that you will really like what’s coming over the next few weeks as we have over 5 new announcements coming along. We have something like 15 teams working on various projects (crazy-amazing stuff).

  3. […] After five weeks of testing the team was sucessfully able to 3D print the bone 3D prints needed for the project. This is still an early test and by no means does this mean you can take your 3D printer with you on your next ski vacation, just in case. But, it is another piece of groundbreaking work by the Open3DP team at the Solheim Lab. You can read more here. […]

  4. […] Bone Yard – 3DP &#1110n Bone […]

  5. […] has managed to accomplish something extraordinary recently: they’ve successfully printed artificial bones with the use of a 3D printer. The main challenge the team faced was coming up with the material to […]

  6. Jorge Ceballos says:

    Really interesting project, what kind of equipment are you using for that?, Z, ProMetal, modified SLS?, thanks!!

  7. Jeremy says:

    Wow. I’m in Seattle and this makes me want to enroll in your class. Or crash it, anyway, since I want the knowledge and don’t care about the course credits.

    • admin says:

      Jeremy, The College of Engr will be having an open house called “Discovery Days”. Our lab will be open for visitors.

  8. […] Entry: Bone Yard – 3DP in Bone […]

  9. 3D Druck aus Knochen | 3Druck.com - alles über 3D-Drucker und Digital Fabricator says:

    […] “Rapid Prototyping Laboratory” Open3DP hat ein Verfahren vorgestellt, das es erlaubt 3D Objekte aus Knochen zu Drucken. Genau gesagt, […]

  10. Buddy Smith says:

    I love all of your powder recipes, but what really caught my eye on this was your “bench testing”.

    Your blog is very inspiring, and I’d love to start experimenting with some powders of my own, but I don’t really know where to start. I would LOVE for you to post a “new powder development” check list – particle size, how to measure or tweak it, what your bench testing steps are, etc etc.

    Thanks for keeping the Z printers alive!


    • admin says:

      Buddy, a big hello to Freeside Atlanta! How’s your “old” powder printer running? Bench testing is one of our tools that drives our ability to quickly respond to new powder ideas. How about we put up a post on bench testing in the near future. We have MANY crazy new things coming (we are bursting with new blog content). Watch for AdderFab!

  11. […] Bone Yard – 3DP in Bone [Open3DP via i.Materialize. Thanks, Joris!] […]

  12. […] Bone Yard – 3DP in Bone Open3DP via i.Materialize. Thanks, Joris! […]

  13. Buddy says:

    It’s doing great, next to the makerbot and the quickly reproducing mendels. We will be printing off a set of clonedel parts soon as well. We just got our first bag of Hydroperm and are very excited about it!

    • ganter says:

      Buddy, start looking for a 110 volt small kiln (you can start casting glass). Kiln casting glass is just flat out *AMAZING*!!! It makes stuff we did before become ho-hum.

      You can finger sand your hydroperm parts to make them smoother. Also don’t forget to seal them with Shellac or some type of water based “varnish” before you attempt to make silicone RTV molds. It so cool to knock out a set of parts
      “on demand”. Take pics and send them (for a joint posting).

  14. […] not to mention ice, ceramic, and — perhaps most amazingly of all — bone meal. What makes the latter particularly exciting is the fact that it could conceivably be used to print […]

  15. Demetri says:

    Did you extrude this to make the filament. How was the filament created exactly? I think this is really really cool. Also, how did you make this run through the printer, if this material was not set yet. Did the printer provide the heat for this to cure?

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