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3D Printed Ultrasound – a glimpse into the future?

Ever since the invention of 3D printers, industries all over the world have utilized it to advance their work. Science, art, education – you name it. The field of medicine has been involved no less. So much so, that it uses 3D printing now to print babies – for medical and diagnostic reasons of course. 3D printed ultrasound is not a crazy science experiment but is considered a tried and tested medical milestone.

What is 3D printed ultrasound?

3D-printed ultrasound is the process of printing a physical model of an unborn child using 3D ultrasound data. Specifically, the term “3D ultrasound” is the rendering of the physical volume of ultrasound data using an ultrasonic imaging device. In this case, the ultrasound data is the fetus.

This data is used to make a digital 3D file, which is then sent to a 3D printer to print. The face of the fetus, certain body parts, or the entire body can be printed.

How does 3D printed ultrasound work?

A sonographer takes the 3D ultrasound data of the baby using either one of these methods –

  • Freehand scanning with a probe
  • Mechanical scanning using a motor probe
  • An endo probe
  • A Matrix array transducer

The data collected using these ultrasonic scanning techniques are then used to generate a 3D file using 3D software.

What is the printing process of 3D printed ultrasound?

To print 3D ultrasound, a decent 3D printer suffices. The printer software reads and prints the 3D file, previously generated. Everything before the printing process requires human expertise in ultrasonic devices, 3D software, and 3D printing technology. After the file is sent to the printer, the rest is taken care of by the printer itself.

PLA or ABS are the usual choices for the printed model, although a wide variety of materials can be used. It all depends on the type of material that the 3D printer can print.

The current scope of 3D printed ultrasound

3D printed ultrasound is offered by several private companies from around the world. However, it is not yet recognized as much. Primarily, because the technology is fresh and hasn’t been picked up by mass media and governments. Secondly, because the concept of getting to physically feel a baby before birth, is uncomfortable to many.

Benefits and limitations of 3D printed ultrasound

Despite its limited popularity, 3D ultrasound printing technology has a wide number of benefits and only one alleged disadvantage.

Pro – Medical and Surgical preparation

For medical staff and professionals in fetal and neonatal care, 3D printed ultrasound models serve as incredible learning and teaching tools. These models can be used to help prepare and guide surgical correction for cardiac anomalies or craniofacial disorders in the fetus. Training with these 3D models is becoming common in a few medical institutions, as 3D printing is quite cost-effective nowadays.

Pro – Parent-doctor communication and the parent-child bond

3D printed ultrasound had been first popularized as means for blind parents to understand the sensation of touching their baby before birth. This major advantage of 3D printed ultrasounds resurfaced lately in an article published in the Washington Post about a blind mother from Maryland who got a 3D model of her pre-borne baby. “I was a little bit nervous about opening the box,” she said in an interview to the paper, “I had never seen a 3D image, and now, it’s your baby, and it’s, like, wow”.

But that’s not the only advantage. a study even claims that it may help parents bond better with the baby. Additionally, it helps medical professionals to communicate fetal complications to the patients, by pinpointing the exact areas for surgery. This helps parents better understand the surgical procedure involved and feel safer to make informed decisions about their child.

Con – Model Precision

Although the ultrasound data is incredibly precise, there still may be a tiny margin for error. This is not a concern for personal purposes, but for medical surgeries, errors cannot be accepted. Hence, surgeons and medical professionals use 3D-printed ultrasound as a mere training guide.

The precision has not proven to be an issue as of yet, and as days go by, ultrasound imaging technology is becoming more accurate. Thus, the one disadvantage of 3D-printed ultrasound may not even exist a few years from now.

What holds the future for 3D printed ultrasound?

The benefits of 3D-printed ultrasound for researchers, doctors, and hospitals are quite apparent. However, to what extent will this service be advanced and commercialized, we have yet to know. For the time being, it can be said with certainty, that 3D printed ultrasound is a creative and innovative solution for the present and potentially the future of fetal and neonatal care.

For more features about 3D printing – please visit our growing Cubee Library

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Let’s talk about 3D Printing in Space

Image credit: NASA

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station conduct scientific research using dozens of special facilities, which also provides them with a place to eat, sleep and exercise. Today, they depend on cargo resupply missions to survive and make their missions possible.

NASA Astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore holds a ratchet wrench created in 2014 with the 3D printer aboard the International Space Station using a design file transmitted from the ground. Credit: NASA

According to NASA, More than 7,000 pounds of spare parts must be sent to the station each year. An additional 29,000 pounds of spare parts for space flight equipment are stored aboard the station and another 39,000 on the ground, ready to fly if needed.

Cargo refueling missions are a crucial part of space activity. As operations expand, these missions will become more expensive and complex, forcing NASA to consider alternative options for supplying the spacecraft.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti working on the 3D Printer aboard the space station.
Credits: NASA

“To send a pound of cargo into low earth orbit, currently costs around $10,000”, said Tracie Prater, Materials Engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, during a “Techbriefs” interview.

Even in space numbers, that number is astronomical. Luckily, there is a solution: an on-demand 3D printing “machine shop” for long-duration space missions.

On-demand manufacturing of parts and tools using 3D printing will dramatically reduce the time it takes to get parts into orbit and increase the reliability and safety of space missions while reducing mission costs.

Today’s space missions’ efforts to get parts into orbit can take months or years. With 3D printing, parts can be manufactured within hours or even minutes.

While it is generally expensive, yet very possible to send equipment to the ISS, it is not at all practical for future missions to the Moon or Mars. Astronauts on these long journeys must be able to manufacture their spare parts, tools, and essential materials, both for everyday needs and to quickly adapt to unexpected circumstances.

“For me”, Prater told Techbriefs, “3D printing is all about reducing the logistics and the amount of volume you have to take. If we are to make spaceflight sustainable and reduce the costs of long-duration missions, we can’t launch everything from Earth”.

“We need to be able to use the materials we have around us. The motto of our project is ‘Make it. Don’t take it.’ I tend to think of human space flight as a long camping trip. If I’m close to home I can easily get whatever I need when I need it, but if I’m far away (March is a 6-9 month solo trip) I can’t take whatever I would need”.

The wrench that was designed by Noah Paul-Gin, an engineer at Made In Space. Credis: Made In Space

NASA realized this years ago, and in 2014, the first 3D printer, developed by “Made in Space”, a California-based company, was sent to the space station. “Made In Space” CEO, Andrew Rush told IndustryWeek that the company would operate as a construction worker “hard hat” to create ready-made products in aluminum, steel, and titanium for use in space missions.

A wrench was one of the first parts printed in space. It demonstrated that it was possible to remotely send a design from the ground to a manufacturing system sitting in zero-gravity, over 200 miles above. Several other functional elements were made by the printer, including an antenna.

NASA is now studying how to recycle plastic waste, including previously printed objects, and turning it into the 3D printer’s filament so that astronauts could print parts, and then reuse the materials once they are done.

International Space Station astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore holds a science sample container that took two hours to make. The container was the first object to be printed with two parts: a lid and a container. Credits: NASA

Recently, “Made in Space” delivered a recycler to the space station, to determine which materials are most efficient for recycling into 3D printing filament.

But that’s not all. NASA is preparing to establish a sustained presence on the Moon and Mars, allowing astronauts to further explore and conduct more science.

According to NASA, the agency is working with ICON, a construction technology company based in Austin, Texas, on the initial research and development of a space construction system that could support future exploration of the Moon and Mars.

The company has managed to create neighborhoods of 3D printed houses and structures on Earth and has participated in NASA’s “3D Printed Habitat Challenge”, which demonstrated construction methods and technologies that may be applied to construction efforts that will take place beyond our planet of origin.

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Meet the Community: Robert Secor

We stopped Robert Secor, 50 from Greece, New York, for a short interview.

What is your Printshops name on Cubee?
3D SandBox

What are you up to when you aren’t 3D printing/designing?
Writing fiction novels.

What type of 3D printer/s do you have? What design software do you use?
FDM printers. TinkerCad, Fusion 360, Ultimaker Cura for slicing.

What brought you into the 3D world?
I always had an interest in technology, and 3D printing is fascinating & very important. We have 3D printers on the International Space Station – so imagine if we had a 3D farm there. The sky is not the limit, it goes beyond the creator’s mind.

How many 3D printing hours do you think you have under your belt?
Well, considering there are 8,766 hours in a year, and I have been involved in 3D printing since 2,018, at least over 1,000 hours with using printers, courses on 3D printing, etc.

one of Robert's printers

How has this occupation affected your home/personal life?
It not only has improved areas around the home, but has given me a better sense of appreciation and accomplishment. I contributed my efforts and resources during COVID-19 to help make Personal Protective Equipment parts against the virus, and in general for people seeking 3D printed objects.

What is your favorite printer?
JGAurora Z-603S would be the top, but I have others that I like and use in my mini-farm of six 3D printers.

What is the weirdest thing you ever printed or designed?
I created a simple yet effective smartphone shoulder holder called “MoBuddy”. Not everyone likes to use earbuds, and it’s also a solution for people that are disabled. If you like to just sit on the couch and listen to music or podcasts without the hassle of any type of earbuds, this can come in handy. It may be weird, but it works.

“MoBuddy” – a smartphone shoulder holder Robert designed

what was your latest 3D print?
A Heng Long RC King Tiger tank internal hull brace for stability for a customer.

Tell us something about 3D printing that not everybody knows.
Did you know 3D printing can make Sushi based on biological samples? A Japanese company demonstrated that at an SXSW conference in Austin Texas back in 2019.

What would the world of 3D printing look like 10 years from now?
Gosh, I can see it not only enhancing the personal use but engaging more enthusiasts/hobbyists, and transforming them into experts while adding to more efficient manufacturing in General. The integration between 3D Printing and Science would be crazy talk long ago. Just take a look around and you will see more and more 3D print technology shaping the world!

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Meet the Community: Adam McDonnough

We stopped Adam McDonnough, 33 from Northwest Arkansas, for a short interview.

What is your Printshops name on Cubee?
Bearnicorn 3D Studio

What are you up to when you aren’t 3D printing/designing?
I work as a packaging and display designer. At home, I spend time with my wife and help raise our 2 year old.

What type of 3D printer/s do you have? What design software do you use?
I run two printers for the time being, a Prusa MK3S+ and a heavily modified Atom 3Lite. My primary design software is Blender.

What brought you into the 3D world?
I studied packaging and 3D design in college but I didn’t get into it personally until a coworker brought in his printers and let me play around with them.

How many 3D printing hours do you think you have under your belt?
I’ve logged over 10,000 hours between my two personal printers.

How has this occupation affected your home/personal life?
I receive a lot of requests from friends, family, and coworkers for me to design or print things. It’s come to be just a part of my life that yields benefits for everyone around me. I will admit that I’ve talked my wife’s ears off about 3D printing and the 3D community but she continues to support it because she knows that it means a lot to me.

What is your favorite print/model ever?
I’ve made a many different things in the last year and a half so it’s hard to choose. I recently printed the Mini Rumble Truck by Clockspring and just had to make one for everyone in my family. They’re cute and they really work well.

What is the weirdest thing you ever printed or designed?
The weirdest thing I’ve ever printed is a set of Croc Spurs for a coworker. I’ve also designed and printed several Yoga wheels which are a fairly niche product.

what was your latest 3D print?
The Pueblos of New Mexico by MiniWorld3D

Tell us something about 3D printing that not everybody knows.
3D printing comes with a really empowering community. I got into it because I liked the idea printing objects, but what keeps me interested is the people and all the cool stuff that it lets me learn. I’ve learned how to work with electronics, basic coding, and robotics, carpentry, adhesives, and materials science, 3D design, marketing, and branding and so much more. All of these are extensions of the base interest in making cool stuff with a 3D printer.

What would the world of 3D printing look like 10 years from now?
3D printing has completely changed in the last 10 year. It went from an extremely niche and expensive hobby to something really accessible to an average tinkerer. In 10 years, I don’t think everyone will be printing, but the machines and materials will advance enough that you could call them a reliable means of production. You’ll see a lot more companies selling hard to produce component kits along side 3D models for you to print at home.

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Projects we Love: airwewear

COVID-19 changed the world as we knew it, and caused many to radically alter their ways of being and adapt quickly to a new reality. Thesis projects in many art schools also took that year a different form, both in content and in their presentation.

May Bar Levav, a student majoring in textile design, chose for her final project to create an alternative mask, using fabric attached to 3D-printed pieces.

Her goal was to produce a unique experience that gives expression not only to the personality and will of the individual wearer, but also to the designer’s interpretation of the current situation.

Making sure to include only sustainable materials, she chose PLA, a biodegradable material commonly used by 3D printers. While creating the mask, she took every element into consideration, including natural filters made from goat wool in New Zealand.

The project is presented in a beautiful website that includes stunning photos and a step-by-step description of her creative process.

“My hope is that masks will still be used after the pandemic crisis ends as protection from air pollution will still be needed”, writes Bar Levav, “I believe that wearing masks and hiding our faces forces us to find new ways of interpersonal communication in order to empower our values and stories. Therefore in my designs, along with textile and knitting techniques, each and every mask will portray one of the many key stories in the era of air pollution increase. Anyone who wears one of these masks will take a part in my own struggle in making the world a better place to breathe in”.

It’s a small, but symbolic example of how 3D printing can come in use, especially when the world is closing down, and we are left finding local and creative solutions.

Photography: Michael shvadron

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Projects we Love: 3D Pointe shoes

When creators involve their past in design projects, a rare artistic encounter occurs, through the object itself, between the viewers of the project and the creator.

One such project was made by Noy Saias, a talented industrial designer who graduated from Shenkar Institute of Art and Design in 2019. Noy ​​decided to return to her days as a ballerina and confront a product that is still made using the same traditional 19th-century manufacturing method – Pointe shoes.


There is nothing that dancers remember more than the terrible pain in their feet when they take their first steps in pointe shoes. Even thinking about it hurts our tows. And the experience is not easy on the shoes either. It turns out that ballerinas change about 100 pairs of pointe shoes every year. Not very eco-friendly.

Noy created innovative Pointe Shoes that are sustainable. They are made of a combination of plastics and natural materials. The ballerina can replace specific parts from the shoe, so there is no need to buy a new one, only to replace the worn-out part. And believe it or not – they hurt a lot less than the original shoe.


The most fascinating part of Noy’s work is the use of 3D printed plastic in the form of a two-dimensional fashion pattern template and transforming it to the form of the foot. It’s both beautiful, and revolutionary in the field of shoe-to-foot fit.
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Choosing Where to Print

Depending on your needs, you can choose the compatible printer for you according to price, location, rating or printer quality. Here’s a few examples of how to choose:

If you need something done fast, you should choose someone who usually responds quickly.

If you just want a draft of a design you intend on perfecting, choose a cheap, low quality print.

On the contrary, choose a high quality printer if you need a product you intend to sell or present as a finished product.

Still need help deciding? Need extra assistance on a project? Just contact us and we’ll do our best to help you out.