a larger-than-life 3D PRINTED brain


elena malott, a student from mcnair academic high school in new jersey, has 3D printed a larger-than-life brain using an experimental robotic printer developed for space applications. modeled from real-world MRI data, the 3D printed brain is four times the size of the subject’s own brain, measuring 560mm x 670mm x 370mm tall.


malott used open-source software to convert the MRI scans to a 3D surface model, which she then sliced and converted to robotic tool paths. the brain, weighing 75kg, was printed with recycled plastic pellets and took approximately 8 hours to print.

3D print brain
the 3D printed brain is four times the size of the subject’s brain, the scaling highlights the layer resolution of an average MRI scan



Physical to digital, and back again


malott used a commercial beta version of the robotic 3D print system developed and manufactured by AI spacefactory, winners of the 2019 NASA centennial challenge / 3D printed mars habitat challenge. she received training to operate the robotic 3D printer from AI spacefactory, which provided supervision during printing. malott is the daughter of the company founder, david malott.


according to malott, MRI scans and 3D printing are similar in that they both utilize ‘slicing’ — a method of encoding 3D dimensional objects as stacked, two-dimensional layers — but work in reverse. where MRI deconstructs real-world objects into digital images, 3D printing starts with a virtual model and is then built up, layer by layer to become a physical object.

3D print brain
view of the underside of the frontal and temporal lobes, the aluminum stand is positioned to mimic the brain chord



the new jersey student hopes that her research will help navigate between physical and digital imaging, paving the way for medical advancements such as robot-assisted surgery and 3D printing with biomaterials.


she explains, ‘we have a long way to go before 3D printing a living organ, much less something as complex as the brain, but its implications would be life-changing.’


in the meantime, malott is starting the second phase of her research by developing 3D print materials with similar electro-conductive properties as white matter and gray matter — the organic materials which make up the brain.


malott plans to donate the 3D printed brain to a museum or institution where it can help inspire younger children to pursue studies in STEM.

3D print brain
top view, showing the left and right hemispheres of the brain

3D print brain
close-up view of the 3D printed layers, made with glass-filled polypropylene, each printed layer is 4mm high

3D print brain
elena malott is a student researcher and senior at mcnair academic high school in jersey city, new jersey



project info:


name: 3D printed brain
by: elena malott


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynne myers | designboom