Research group 3D Innovation

The research group 3D Innovation @ Stellenbosch University was established in 2019, with the aim to advance research in all aspects of 3D technologies, particularly additive manufacturing (3D printing) and X-ray tomography (3D scanning), with a dash of biomimicry often involved. This research group is headed by Prof Anton du Plessis who also manages the CT scan facility. This group falls under Physics in the Faculty of Science. The group is also associated with the newly established Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBE) at Stellenbosch University.

For CT scan services (routine jobs), please see the Stellenbosch CT facility website

Group leader background information:

Prof du Plessis is a researcher with more than 20 years of academic experience (15 years post-PhD). He is academically ranked as Associate Professor (Physics Department) and manages an interdisciplinary research centre for X-ray micro computed tomography – the Stellenbosch CT facility. He is associated with the newly established Institute for Biomedical Engineering and also with the Laser Research Institute. Nationally and internationally he collaborates widely, also working closely with industry partners. He is also appointed as Research Associate at Nelson Mandela University: Faculty of Engineering.

His own research interests are in Additive Manufacturing, X-ray Tomography and Biomimicry. In his most recent research, he focuses on structural integrity in metal laser powder bed fusion and works on studies of lattice structures (extreme lightweight “scaffold” structures) through a funded project of the South African Collaborative Program in Additive Manufacturing (CPAM). He is a past management committee member of the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (RAPDASA) and hosted a specialist track “Biomimetic engineering for additive manufacturing” at the 2019 international RAPDASA conference. He is an associate editor of Elsevier’s Additive Manufacturing journal (IF = 7). He is on the editorial board of the journal Scientific African – he supports African science, as the proverb goes “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. He is also on the editorial board of the journal 3D Printing and Additive manufacturing. He is on the editorial board of the new data journal GigaByte associated with Gigascience journal. He is also subject editor at the journal Material Design and Processing Communications (Wiley).

Research areas

My research is focused on Additive Manufacturing, X-ray tomography and Biomimicry. Specific interests in these domains and current research goals are highlighted below, please see recent publications (on publications tab above) for more information (I try to put all papers here and on researchgate where possible) or contact me directly. I gladly collaborate and do contract research in areas overlapping strongly in these areas of expertise. We have current collaborations with the following academic groups

Central University of Technology
University Antwerp
Nelson Mandela University
University of Pretoria
Karlstad University
University di Milano
NTNU Norway

and the following industrial partners:
CSIR, Aeroswift, Altair

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. We have positions from time to time which I will advertise here. Also see my expectations and the working requirements Lab Member Contract du Plessis

If you are a researcher looking to collaborate, I am open to collaboration and I am especially in favour of combined applications for funding. All forms of funding are welcome, it keeps the research moving forward. Donations are also welcome in increments of US$100 000.

I am open to the following:

  • collaborative research projects
  • supervising post-graduate students
  • lecturing selected courses
  • contract work / consultation
  • advisory roles

Background info about our research:

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 I work on three 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.

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

My research work is supported by the Collaborative Program in Additive Manufacturing (CPAM) – I am very thankful for this support. Here is a 3D model of the CPAM logo for free download – designed in Altair Inspire and mesh simplified in VGSTUDIO MAX – click cpam highly simplified add stl extension to download 6 Mb STL file.

Please check my publications for more information: publications


Google Scholar Citations profile:


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

Also see the RAPDASA 2018 conference proceedings here:

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