A multi-method assessment of 3D printed micromorphological osteological features

Rachael M. Carew, Francesco Iacoviello, Carolyn Rando, Robert M. Moss, Robert Speller, James French, Ruth M. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


The evaluation of 3D printed osteological materials has highlighted the difficulties associated with accurately representing fine surface details on printed bones. Moreover, there is an increasing need for reconstructions to be demonstrably accurate and reliable for use in the criminal justice system. The aim of this study was to assess the surface quality of 3D prints (n = 9) that presented with micromorphological alterations from trauma, taphonomy and pathology processes. The archaeological bones were imaged using micro-CT scanning and 3D printed with selective laser sintering (SLS) printing. A multi-method experimental approach subsequently identified: (1) the 3D printed bones to be metrically accurate to within 1.0 mm; (2) good representation of micromorphological surface features overall, albeit with some loss of intricate details, depths, and fine textures that can be important for visual processing; (3) five of the nine 3D printed bones were quantitatively scored as accurate using the visual comparison method; and, (4) low mesh comparison distances (± 0.2 mm) between the original models and the digitised 3D print models. The findings offer empirical data that can be used to underpin 3D printed reconstructions of exhibits for use in courts of law. In addition, an adaptable pathway was presented that can be used to assess 3D print accuracy in future reconstructions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1406
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date9 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.


  • 3D imaging
  • 3D modelling
  • 3D printing
  • Evidence reconstruction
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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