Quantitative assessment of biophotonic imaging system performance with phantoms fabricated by rapid prototyping

Jianting Wang, James Coburn, Nicholas Woolsey, Chia Pin Liang, Jessica Ramella-Roman, Yu Chen, Joshua Pfefer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In biophotonic imaging, turbid phantoms that are low-cost, biologically-relevant, and durable are desired for standardized performance assessment. Such phantoms often contain inclusions of varying depths and sizes in order to quantify key image quality characteristics such as penetration depth, sensitivity and contrast detectability. The emerging technique of rapid prototyping with three-dimensional (3D) printers provides a potentially revolutionary way to fabricate these structures. Towards this goal, we have characterized the optical properties and morphology of phantoms fabricated by two 3D printing approaches: thermosoftening and photopolymerization. Material optical properties were measured by spectrophotometry while the morphology of phantoms incorporating 0.2-1.0 mm diameter channels was studied by μCT, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and optical microscopy. A near-infrared absorbing dye and nanorods at several concentrations were injected into channels to evaluate detectability with a near-infrared hyperspectral reflectance imaging (HRI) system (650-1100 nm). Phantoms exhibited biologically-relevant scattering and low absorption across visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Although limitations in resolution were noted, channels with diameters of 0.4 mm or more could be reliably fabricated. The most significant problem noted was the porosity of phantoms generated with the thermosoftening-based printer. The aforementioned three imaging methods provided a valuable mix of insights into phantom morphology and may also be useful for detailed structural inspection of medical devices fabricated by rapid prototyping, such as customized implants. Overall, our findings indicate that 3D printing has significant potential as a method for fabricating well-characterized, standard phantoms for medical imaging modalities such as HRI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
ISBN (Print)9780819498496
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventDesign and Quality for Biomedical Technologies VII - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Feb 1 2014Feb 2 2014


OtherDesign and Quality for Biomedical Technologies VII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA


  • 3D printing
  • Biophotonic imaging
  • Geometric phantoms
  • Hyperspectral reflectance imaging
  • Rapid proto-typing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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