Printing volume renderings in plastic

A question that comes up on this forum from time to time is why we can’t just 3D print the volume rendered view. We explain that most printers today expect STL surface models and we go into the difference between volume rendering and surface segmentation.

I wanted to point out some just published research about new printing techniques that are much closer to directly printing out a volume rendering.

These are photographs of 3D prints made using this technique:

Here’s our paper that describes the method:

It still requires special printers and materials, but if the technique proves useful we can expect it to become more commonly available.


These look beautiful and it’s great that you don’t need to segment your data.

An extension has been added to Slicer that can print such models: SlicerFab. It is available in the extension manager for recent nightly builds.


Hello, I am a Chinese student and I am going to print a heart model like this:

But I encountered certain difficulties in volume rendering, my heart model is dark, like this picture. It doesn’t has any color, so I got numbers of bitmap(png) without colors. How can I save this problem.

In cardiac CT images, all contrast-filled structures have similar image intensity, so direct volume rendering will not help. You need to segment the image as explained here in detail:

I‘m sorry. My English is poor, I will describe my question more clearly:
I want to 3D print a heart model. In the 3D slicer, I used the “grow from seed” method and got the following picture:

I know that only the volume can be rendered, so I want to convert these 8 segmentation into volume. In this step, I used the “split volume” method. This way I got 8 volumes。
I want to render these volumes one by one, superimposed in the window, like this:

Finally I got the picture below

But I have this very serious problem when using bitmap generator. There is nothing left

I think maybe multiple volumes cause an error, but the same problem still happens when I try render one volume and generate bitmap.
I ’m sure there are no errors in my bitmap, because the picture below is a successful example

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your answer, thank you

@Wan - Can you try the latest nightly preview of Slicer and the SlicerFab extension? If the bitmap generator is not working for you please share a scene that can be used to replicate the issue.

If you already segmented your volume then you don’t need bitmap printing but you can use a regular plastic color printer. You need to export the segmentation to STL or colored OBJ (using Export to files feature in Segment Editor). You may also export to colored VRML (as described here) or glTF (using SlicerOpenAnatomy extension).

A post was split to a new topic: I have lots of questions. Can I write you an email?