Research group 3D Innovation

News 23/11/2022: we have a new PhD position for start in Sept 2023 – see attached for details – interdisciplinary work on CT imaging, data management, AI, biomimicry/bioinspiration and additive manufacturing. DC1 position


This is the research website of the group 3D Innovation, led by Prof Anton du Plessis. My research interests lie in the domains of additive manufacturing, X-ray tomography and biomimicry. I enjoy pushing the limits of these technologies, and generally pushing research towards industrial adoption. My research efforts in these domains are strongly collaborative with my students and collaborators based at various universities and institutions worldwide. My publications are listed and kept up to date here on the publications tab – Feel free to reach out on researchgate or directly if you cannot access any of my papers.

Since 2022 I am working for a software company – I am an applications scientist at Object Research Systems, the makers of the Dragonfly image processing platform. In this role I support scientists and industry users to make the most of their image data, often acquired by X-ray tomography tools. I am still involved in research part time through the group 3D Innovation, based at the Physics Department at Stellenbosch University.

In the area of additive manufacturing, I am a past associate editor of the journal Additive Manufacturing, and currently the deputy editor of the associated letters journal Additive Manufacturing Letters. I was an editor of the popular book Fundamentals of Laser Powder Bed Fusion of Metals, published by Elsevier. I work mainly on structural integrity in metal additive manufacturing and the use of lattice structures. For more on additively manufactured lattice structures, please see these recent reviews on their applications and their structural integrity. For more on metal additive manufacturing and its wider industrial adoption, refer to the review here, or the book here.

In the area of X-ray tomography, I work as applications scientist at the leading image analysis software package for handling tomography images, demonstrating new use cases and workflows in daily work. I am editor in chief of the new journal Tomography of Materials and Structures, part of the Elsevier Materials Today family. My research covers new applications in materials characterization using tomography, and recently includes a new project on phase contrast imaging. For a general review paper on the topic refer to this paper in Nature Reviews Methods Primers.

Biomimicry in the context of my research refers to specifically studying natural biological systems (mostly hard structures) for insights for design of improved engineering structures. This is also often called bio-inspiration, bio-inspired design or recently we coined the term bio-enhanced engineering. For more on this topic please refer to this recent opinion paper, a book chapter here and this review paper.

Background / track record

Prof. Anton Du Plessis is ranked as Associate Professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa at the Physics Department. This role is part time since 2022 as he is now an applications scientist at Object Research Systems (ORS). ORS is a software company based in Montreal, Canada, and owned by the Comet group. Its main product is the Dragonfly scientific image processing platform – free for academic use. See more here: As a leading image analysis and software platform this software supports research into all areas of 2D and 3D image acquisition modalities including X-ray CT, SEM etc. Besides strong segmentation capabilities, it includes deep learning based segmentation and analysis tools.

As an academic, Prof du Plessis continues research and continues to support his students, in many cases through strong collaborations and industry links. He currently holds formal adjunct academic positions as research affiliate at Nelson Mandela University, Faculty of Engineering and as visiting professor at Central University of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering. He was a previous fellow of the Stellenbosch Insitute for Advanced Study (STIAS). he is currently a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and fellow of the South African Academy of Science.


I gladly collaborate and have the following current active collaborations:

Central University of Technology
University Antwerp
European Space Agency
Nelson Mandela University
University of Pretoria
Karlstad University
University di Milano
NTNU Norway
University of Texas at El Paso

and the following industrial partners:
Object Research Systems, CSIR, Aeroswift, Altair, LRS implants, Executive Engineering, Rapid3D


If you are a student looking for a masters or doctoral position in my group, I am happy to support but you need to find funding yourself, check the NRF for bursary applications. We have positions from time to time which I will advertise here. At the moment I have one PhD position for a South African citizen, see Bursary advert. This research is in the context of phase contrast X-ray imaging and requires a masters in Physics or similar.


If you are a researcher looking to collaborate, I am open to collaboration and I am especially in favour of combined applications for funding. I am thankful to the South African Department of Science and Innovation for funding through the Collaborative Program in Additive Manufacturing (CPAM).


I am open to the following:

  • collaborative research projects & joint publication
  • supervising post-graduate students
  • lecturing selected courses
  • advisory roles
  • adjunct academic and science leadership positions

Background info about our research

Here some more information on the topics and areas of interest in our group

Additive manufacturing and specifically laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) has reached a level of maturity where critical parts for aerospace and medical applications are being produced commercially. In this field we work on these aspects:

  • Quality control & structural integrity: I work on new testing methods and improvements in processes which allow higher quality parts to be produced, pushing the adoption of additive manufacturing. It is critical to understand the effect of various defect types to improve part quality and mechanical performance
  • Lattice structures & topology optimization: My aim here is to advance the use of lattices and topology optimization in practical applications.

X-ray tomography is an emerging materials analysis tool, which may be used in a wide variety of academic and industrial projects to image internal details of objects non-destructively. I push the frontiers of this technology for new applications, new methodologies and am especially interested in image based simulations. At the moment I work on deep learning based image segmentation for additive manufacturing.

Biomimicry or bio-inspiration can allow unique new materials designs based on nature’s lessons learned over millions of years of evolution. I focus on natural structures and attempt to learn “design rules” which can be applied to practical engineering applications.

Additional information

Please check my publications for more information: publications

Email for academic research: 
Alternative email and X-ray tomography requests: aduplessis <at>
Object research systems:

Additive Manufacturing Letters:

Tomography of Materials and Structures:

Google Scholar Citations profile:


For more information on Additive Manufacturing, including annual global market report, see here:

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