Development of Physical Breast Phantoms for X-ray Imaging Employing 3D Printing Techniques

A. Malliori1, *, A. Daskalaki1, A. Dermitzakis1, N. Pallikarakis1
1 Department of Medical Physics, Biomedical Technology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

© 2020 Malliori et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Medical Physics, Biomedical Technology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Patras, 26500, Rio, Patras, Greece; Tel: +30 – 2610-969109;Fax: +30 – 2610-992496;



This study aims to investigate the use of 3D printing techniques for the fabrication of physical breast phantoms, suitable for conventional and phase contrast breast imaging. Such phantoms could provide essential information for the design, development and optimization of emerging X-ray imaging modalities.

Materials and Methods:

Physical phantoms were constructed using two 3D printing techniques: Fused Deposition Modeling and Stereolithography. Eight materials suitable for 3D printing, including thermoplastic filaments and photopolymer resins, were investigated for the optimal representation of breast tissues, based on their attenuation and refractive characteristics. The phantoms consisted of a 3D-printed mold, which was then manually filled with paraffin wax. Additionally, a 3D complex-patterned layer and details representing abnormalities were embedded in different depths. Images of the phantoms were obtained in attenuation and phase contrast mode. Experiments were conducted using an X-ray microfocus tube with Tungsten anode set to 55kVp, combined with a photon-counting detector. The distance between source and detector was 56.5cm. The images were acquired at different object-to-detector distances starting from 5cm up to 40cm in a free space propagation set-up.

Results and Conclusion:

Results show that among all combinations with paraffin used as an adipose substitute, phantoms created with the Stereolithography technique and resins (especially Flex) as glandular equivalent, were found to be more appropriate for both attenuation and phase contrast imaging. The edge enhancement effect was well observed in the experimental images acquired at 35cm object-to-detector distance, indicating the potential for improved feature visualization using this set-up in phase contrast compared to attenuation mode.

Keywords: Physical breast phantoms, 3D printing, X-ray imaging, Phase contrast, Fused deposition modeling, Stereolithography technique.