3D printing with bone meal

Joris from i.materialise sez, "The Open3DP team at the University of Washington has amazed us again by demonstrating that 3D printing in bone is possible. For an art project the team tested different mixtures of bone powder for five weeks until it came up with a stable bone mixture that could be 3D printed."
But WAIT! After the first parts were printed, there was a long pause and a sigh heard from Juliana.

"I don't know what to do here." "I don't know how I feel about touching these parts."


"I'm a vegetarian!"


As time has passed in our lab, we've found some more interesting (and aggressive) adhesives - namely Urea-Formaldehyde (UF) glue. A urea formaldehyde resin or glue (also commonly called a urea glue or a UF) is also called "plastic resin glue". This product is sold as a water soluble wood glue. A quick test with bone powder has shown that very strong parts can be produced using UF.

Bone Yard - 3DP in Bone (Thanks, Joris, via Submitterator!)

(Image: 2010 J. Meira Do Valle - Bones in Bone (photo Laura West @ 2010))



    how wicked would it be to print off a whole skeleton. now start printing weird objects in bones. i could finally print off my skeleton typography in real bones. ohhh the possibilites.

  2. Hate to be a debbie downer, but UF offgasses formaldehyde (a carcinogen) for several years after curing — much more so than other formaldehyde glues like Phenol Formaldehyde. It is the likely culprit in the FEMA toxic trailer debacle. It’s also somewhat water soluble even after cured, which is why it is only used in interior construction (which, of course, is where it has the largest impact on indoor air quality.)

    I know all this because I was trying to put down some new flooring in my house. I wanted to do the right thing from an indoor air quality standpoint, but I found it difficult to find linoleum underlayment that did not offgass formaldehyde — UF and PF are the standard glues for plywood and particle board.

  3. Is there a medical application for this? I suppose there are situations where replacement bone is needed – I believe coral is sometimes shaped for that use. If such 3DP in bone could be done, I assume a neutral adhesive would be very important.

  4. hey, Juliana, you don’t have to eat these. it’s medicine.
    are there any vegan doctors out there?

  5. You’re a vegetarian? What, were you planning on EATING the bones?

    Eating healthy is very smart, but being squicked out by sterile bones is a little silly. So how’s that working out for you, being made out of meat?

  6. As someone who’s going to need a new knee in a few years I really look forward to seeing this become practical in the medical sense. I mean yes, there’s the “ew, gross” factor of seeing a bunch of printed bones with a glue that’s apparently toxic, but I’m still hopeful.

  7. I know someone who was recently in a car crash and had her bones repaired with some mixture of her bone material and a donor cadaver’s. Don’t ask me the details, but this is done in real life.

    So this sounds like it might actually be usable by doctors, if it can get past the regulatory hurdles.

    Will they come up with 3D printable motors and lead screws and silicon circuits next? Then the 3D printer will be able to reproduce itself.

  8. vegetarian??? I am one, but I would have no problem working with this life changing technology… someone should tell them you are not going to eat it… eating vegetarian has little to do with the wako idealistic views people have about animals…
    we need a new word for those apposed to using animals…

  9. I’m sorry, but this is HIGHLY misleading. Cory, you should point out in more detail that this is an ART project. Bones are not simply organic columns made from calcium. They have bone marrow that produces new red blood cells, and bone walls are not solid but made up of microscopic honeycomb structures that provide lightness and some porosity. There are a hundred more differences that contribute to these art pieces being bad at serving as bone replacements. These are glued-together piles of bone dust. People will be way better served by medical-grade steel (or whatever is currently used).

    I understand this is just a story about interesting artwork and a vegetarian who doesn’t understand the meaning, but the posters here are drastically misunderstanding the ongoing hurdles science still faces with growing or building organic body parts and laboratory meat- a topic I hope you continue to cover in this blog. These at pieces are no more analogous

  10. Wait, what is misleading about this? I thought I and this post were pretty clear. I don’t see anyone saying anything about 3D printing “limbs” or “3D print your leg now.” How else should I have explained it? I know there is a lot of inaccurate info about 3D printing around now, I sure don’t want to contribute…


  11. I suspect that’s dog food grade. I’m pretty sure bone meal does horrible things to the human digestive tract. (Protip: don’t eat dogfood.)

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