Joshua Qua Hiansen is a research associate at the Critical Making Lab. His work station, covered as it is in human organs, may lead one to believe that he is a serial killer. In fact, his work is far less unpleasant and far more interesting.
Hiansen is doing research in using 3D printing to provide cheap and customizable medical models for training med students.
Most anatomical models are expensive and therefore most facilities cannot afford a wide assortment . Hiansen’s models are much quicker and cheaper to produce, allowing more customization. Because he can print a spine in a day or two, for example, teachers can easily have both textbook perfect models and examples of extremely diseased spinal columns. This is quite useful – real body parts are seldom as simple and well-laid out as those in books or classic models.
The spines are also an easy way for students to practice locating the areas they need to in order to give epidurals – something for which I am sure those of us who have been or are planning to get pregnant at some point are quite grateful for!
Hiansen doesn’t just make spines. He also produces other organs, including bronchial tubes, hearts and brains.
The tricky part is creating models which are echogenic (able to bounce an echo), for practice using the ultrasound. PLA plastic actually has a consistency similar to bone. For accuracy, though, many of the models are mounted in a gel matrix. Keeping to his goal of producing models which are cheap and simple to make, the medium Josh uses is simply grocery store gelatin.
Want to see more of Josh’s work? Follow him on Twitter!
This Valentine’s Day, Research Associate Joshua Qua Hiansen wants to give away his heart. It’s okay, he has a lot of spares:
Of course, these hearts don’t beat for anyone, even true love. They’re anatomical models for teaching medical students. More on Josh’s Twitter:
Daniel Southwick is a PhD candidate in the Critical Making Lab, currently working on his dissertation. He is interested in troubling current conceptions about 3D printing. 3D printing is often promoted as the transition from digital objects into physical ones. Daniel’s recent project, the Camera Obscura, shows that it isn’t that simple.
The Camera Obscura project started from a simple goal: Southwick wanted to print and put together a camera from a pattern downloaded from the internet. If 3D printing truly was as simple as it is often perceived, this should be no issue. It was not, however, that simple.
Creating the camera in fact required physical and social structures which were not present for Southwick. The pattern was not created in a void but as part of the creator’s environment. The pattern came from a European country; connecting parts were metric and difficult to get in Canada. Putting it together also required a great deal of implicit knowledge of how cameras work – for example, Southwick initially printed the camera in white plastic, not realizing that reflection of light would be an issue when actually taking photos.
Although Southwick wanted to avoid excessive self-reflection, he pointed out that the Camera Obscura project demonstrates just how complicated it can be to move an object from the digital realm into the physical and how deeply an object’s pattern is influenced by the culture and environment of its creator.