Learn­ing in the third di­men­sion

New 3D printer to help doc­tors and stu­dents grow in St. An­thony

Northern Pen - - Front page - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

Doc­tors and stu­dents alike can now ben­e­fit and learn from some fun new tech­nol­ogy at Charles S. Cur­tis Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal.

On June 5, Dr. Si­varuban Kana­garat­nam (lo­cally known as “Dr. Ruban”) and the team of MED 3D Net­work pre­sented a new 3D printer to hos­pi­tal staff, as well as to high school stu­dents from White Hills Academy.

The printer uses poly­lac­tic acid and polyvinyl al­co­hol plas­tics to print 3D mod­els of al­most any­thing, from hu­man anatomy to parts of ma­chines, that may be of use to hos­pi­tal staff and lo­cal stu­dents.

MED 3D Net­work had a num­ber of printed mod­els on dis­play dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, in­clud­ing a hu­man brain, heart, pelvis, cervix, food and a cran­iotomy sim­u­la­tor.

Kana­garat­nam is hope­ful the new tech­nol­ogy will al­low doc­tors like him to sim­u­late sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in prepa­ra­tion for the real thing.

It will also pro­vide mod­els to teach stu­dents.

For in­stance, Kana­garat­nam says he can teach stu­dents how to su­ture skin with­out hav­ing to use the skin of, say, a pig to prac­tice on.

Plus he stresses that stu­dents can use it in any way that is use­ful The MED 3D Net­work team with the 3D printer. Pic­tured (from left) are re­search as­sis­tant Ni­cole Bishop, project man­ager Greg Walsh and de­signer/re­search as­sis­tant Chris­tine Goudie. They gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on the printer at Charles S. Cur­tis Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal. for them.

For in­stance, if they want to learn how to op­er­ate on a part of a snow­mo­bile, this is some­thing that can sim­u­lated us­ing the 3D printer as well.

Stu­dents at­tend­ing had a few ideas what they might be able to use it for.

One stu­dent won­dered if she could recre­ate an eye­ball with the printer, an­other won­dered if they can see a hu­man skull recre­ated, and an­other even spec­u­lated whether it could recre­ate items from video games.

“I think the printer brings the com­mu­nity closer to the health care sys­tem,” Dr. Kana­garat­nam told the North­ern Pen. “And I think it makes us a bet­ter place. It can en­hance clin­i­cal prac­tice, it can en­hance re­search.”

He hopes to be able to cre­ate an on­line net­work, where groups of peo­ple can con­sult with each other on print­ing projects.

The 3D printer will be lo­cated in the hos­pi­tal li­brary.

How it works

Project leader Greg Walsh ex­plained how the 3D printer works to the North­ern Pen.

Firstly, one has to ac­quire a dig­i­tal model of a par­tic­u­lar item.

These may be de­signed on your own, us­ing CAD soft­ware, but a num­ber of open source mod­els are avail­able on­line for free. Thin­gi­verse.com is one such web­site where such mod­els can be found.

For health care, the model can be pro­vided through a CT scan.

Then, us­ing the 3D print­ing soft­ware Cura, it can be trans­formed into code that can be un­der­stood by the printer.

“You put that in Cura, which is a slicer, and it slices into su­per thin lay­ers and takes each of those lay­ers and writes a code that this (the printer) can un­der­stand,” said Walsh. “It tells it ba­si­cally for each layer what you do. And you move up one layer. It slices a 3D image into 2D lay­ers and builds those lay­ers on top of each other.”

The MED 3D Net­work Dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, MED 3D Net­work in­di­cated it is an ex­pan­sion of MUN (Me­mo­rial Univer­sity) MED 3D to “pro­vide ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with ca­pa­bil­i­ties to pro­duce in­no­va­tive med­i­cal tools for both sim­u­la­tion and clin­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion. The net­work cre­ates wide-reach­ing po­ten­tial to ad­vance hands-on learn­ing and im­prove health care out­comes within (New­found­land and Labrador) and through­out At­lantic Canada.”

One of their print labs is al­ready op­er­at­ing in Car­bon­ear. St. An­thony will be the sec­ond.

On Wed­nes­day, June 6 they were trav­el­ling to Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay to open a third.

These lab­o­ra­to­ries will hub with the MUN MED 3D lab, the main lab­o­ra­tory at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in St. John’s.

“That lab will sup­port the three sites in any de­sign, trou­bleshoot­ing, or­der­ing of ma­te­ri­als, etcetera,” project man­ager Greg Walsh told the North­ern Pen. “The idea would be that, first, they kind of lean on the cen­tral lab for some help but as they grow more com­fort­able with it, they take on more and more of the ac­tual de­sign and print­ing process them­selves.”

They hope there can be print­ers at six lo­ca­tions by the fall.


Dr. Si­varuban Kana­garat­nam (right) uses a caran­iotomy sim­u­la­tor, printed with the 3D printer, to ex­plain this med­i­cal pro­ce­dure to high school stu­dents.

Some of the 3D items printed for the pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded a brain, spine, heart and the top of a cut open hu­man skull to sim­u­late a cran­iotomy.

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