A step-by-step method for producing 3D crania models from CT data

Madeline Robles, Rachael M. Carew, Ruth M. Morgan, Carolyn Rando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
279 Downloads (Pure)


Modern computed tomography (CT) databases offer a valuable resource for obtaining skeletal reconstructions and contemporary population data. However, researchers may not utilise CT data due to limited funds for proprietary modelling software, or from a lack of awareness of visualisation techniques. This paper presents a step-by-step method for creating accurate 3D crania models from CT data using the free and open-source platform 3D Slicer. This method is tested to (1) establish if novice users can produce 3D crania models following the steps, and (2) determine if these models are accurate to models from experienced users.

Materials and methods
The step-by-step method was recorded and tested by five observers who each produced twenty 3D models using clinical sinus CT scans (n = 20). The models (n = 100) were evaluated through a quantitative mesh comparison to establish the accuracy with experienced users and against novice users.

The mesh comparison between the models from the experienced observers resulted in an average absolute mean distance of 0.4 mm, with 99% of models accurate to within 0.5 mm. The novice observers were able to create robust 3D models following the step-by-step method with average absolute mean distances of 0.5 to 0.6 mm, and 95% of the mean distances within 1 mm of the reference model.

All of the crania models produced were comparably accurate with minor variances seen in the background noise and orbital bone modelling. The tested method is accessible and suitable for use with modern CT databases and for forensic reconstruction approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200404
JournalForensic Imaging
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Forensic Imaging. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Forensic Imaging, 23, (2020)
DOI: 10.1016/j.fri.2020.200404

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Forensic anthropology
  • Virtual anthropology
  • 3D modelling
  • Computed tomography
  • Digitisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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