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Researcher Profile: Joshua Qua Hiansen

February 17, 2016Rowena McGowanPeople0

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.

Spine flipped

A test print of a spine. Photo credit: Joshua Qua Hiansen

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.

Organs together

Anatomical models of a heart, bronchial tubes and spine assembled. Photo credit: Joshua Qua Hiansen

Want to see more of Josh’s work? Follow him on Twitter!

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About Rowena McGowan

Rowena is a second year Museum Studies student at the iSchool and curator at Semaphore lab. Having read 'I, Robot' at a formative age, she is fascinated by technology's potential to make the world a better place.

View all posts by Rowena McGowan →

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