3D printing for a state of the art heart

Master of Visual Arts student and Griffith University design graduate Kaecee Fitzgerald, who has used 3D printing technology to design a model relating to the evolution of the human heart

Griffith University studentKaecee Fitzgerald has her heart in her hands and the world at her feet.

The 23-year-old designer of a model relating to the evolution of the human heart and created through the marvel that is 3D printing, Kaecee is becoming increasingly expert in a transformative technology being hailed by some as the catalyst for a new Industrial Revolution.

Throughout the world the implications of 3D printing technology are continuing to expand, particularly in areas such as medicine, aerospace and automotive engineering, architecture, design, fashion and even the military.

Already a graduate in Graphic Design and Product Design, Kaecee is completing her Master of Visual Arts at the Griffith University-based Queensland College of Art. Shesaid 3D printing fit neatly with her aspirations for a career in medical modelling and design.

She added the technology elevated this kind of work to a new level of possibility, particularly in the provision of patient-specific products including surgical guides, bioscaffolding for cell regeneration and prosthetics as individual as one’s fingerprints.

Such is the deemed potential of 3D printing that the QCA has made it available to first-year students as the first manufacturing process they learn on their Bachelor of Digital Media degree at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus.

According to Dr Jennifer Loy, the QCA’s Convenor of 3D Design, the process technically known as Additive Manufacturing works from a digital blueprint to create three-dimensional solid objects. Using plastic, ceramic or metal, products are built in layers that can be as thin as 0.1mm.

The QCA’s Advanced Technology Lab on the Gold Coast will have a series of 3D printers running during Griffith University’s Open Day on Sunday, August 11. Creative 3D printed objects by the 3D Digital Media students will be on display.

“Artistically speaking, 3D printing is an exciting and innovative form of expression. Economically, however, it is game-changing technology that provides the opportunity to shift from mass production to mass customisation,” Dr Loy said.

Kaecee said she had always been fascinated by the way the human body functioned and 3D printing was a way to combine science with art.

“My introduction to the process was through designing a multi-layered perfume bottle. It didn’t take long to realise how else the technology could be applied,” she said.

Kaecee Fitzgerald with another example of her work using 3D printing technology
Kaecee Fitzgerald with another example of her work using 3D printing technology

“I just fell in love with it and it has changed my creative imagination. I strongly believe my art must have function, must have a purpose, and so the prospect of working creatively in an area such as medical modelling is thrilling.”

While the potential of 3D printing for human anatomical customisation has raised some ethical concerns, comparable to the debate over the harvesting of human stem cells, there is no doubting the scope of its applications.

Google “3D printing” and the technology is demonstrated in everything from custom-made musical instruments, works of art, eggcups, jewellery, cutlery and toys to a replica of the skeleton of King Richard the III, facial reconstruction surgery and even a prosthetic foot for an injured duck.

Furthermore, 3D printed designs by Griffith University students recently made their catwalk debut at an international fashion parade in Malaysia.

“This is a world-changing technology in so many ways and Griffith University has recognised that,” Dr Loy said.

“By having access to 3D printing so early in their studies,QCAstudents are learning design at the cutting edge.”