Megumi Inoue, Innovation Lab Student Intern, advances scientific visualization and publishes findings

Author: Melissa Serrano

Megumi Inoue, Innovation Lab intern and ND ' 20

Megumi Inoue is a current senior at Notre Dame studying Science Pre-Professional Studies with minors in Computing and Digital Technologies and Studio Art. After being introduced to the lab in her sophomore year, Megumi reached out to Matt Leevy who had previously worked with going from CT biomedical data to 3D reconstructed and 3D printed patient-specific anatomical models. With her interest in medical visualizations, she began her work with Matt learning the basics of translating a medical scan to 3D reconstruction, focusing heavily on the artistic side of things.

Through her experience studying anatomy, Megumi quickly identified the need for creating models that could help students distinguish and understand its different components. In the past, there have been 3D printed models used in the classroom, but these have primarily remained monochrome. After learning and understanding the capabilities of 3D printing, specifically multicolored printing, Megumi was interested in seeing how to bring multicolored printing into the classroom, the basis of her project. Her sophomore year Megumi attended a conference on Visualizing Biological Data at MIT, where she was inspired to go back and present herself. The following year the conference was held in Germany, where she brought her initial findings. After receiving positive feedback on color-coded bones for the classroom the goal to publish was in sight. 

Megumi published her findings in the MDPI Applied Sciences Journal after almost two years of research. The technical note “Color Enhancement Strategies for 3D Printing of X-Ray Computed Tomography Bone Data For Advanced Anatomy Teaching Models” co-authored by Tristan Freel, Anthony Van Avermaete and Matthew Leevy, highlights the two conventional multicolored printing technologies: poly-jet and binder-jet systems. 

The poly-jet printing was done in-house using FabLab’s Connex3 Objet350 printer, capable of printing in a variety of colors, including transparent material. For the purpose of educational aids, this would allow students to better understand with more depth the different anatomical elements and spatial relationships of different features, which are typically difficult to see on a monochrome model. 

The second modality that Megumi explored was binder-jet printing. This technique differs from poly-jet in the way the file was prepared for the printing technology. Megumi explains, “for poly-jet printing you would have to split the model into different components and bring them together.” The software used allowed for organic selection of different sections of the model, each saved as an individual file that would then be brought together in the printing software, color-coded and printed. Binder-jet, on the other hand, had color embedded into the file, which allowed the model to be painted as a unit. This brought out Megumi’s artistic capabilities and provided the opportunity to integrate her experience freelancing as a medical illustrator in the lab.

With the lowering cost of 3D printing, there have been other papers aimed at bringing similar models into the classroom. What makes this project unique is the capability of color-coding a bone using real data. It has the potential to be printed in any size which could be useful for studying. Megumi explains, “as a student, I thought it was difficult to project something in 2D like in your textbook, and [compare] it to something in the lab...This method would reduce [that] gap.”

This project is only one of many that Megumi has contributed to the Innovation Lab. Her artistry can be seen from the Notre Dame’s cardboard layered mascot to the watercolored coasters modeled after her illustrations. Next year she hopes to attend grad school to continue “using the latest and greatest technologies to visualize biology.”

See her other work at