Thursday, March 30, 2017

News: Medical AMRC test the boundaries of new 3D printer

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Engineers from the University of Sheffield Medical Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (ARMC) have used a new 3D printer to create a model of the delicate structure deep inside the ear called the labyrinth.

Based in the centre's Design, Prototyping & Testing Centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the Medical AMRC sits alongside the current AMRC, a world class centre for advanced machining and materials research, and has access to all the current resources but with a dedicated team which specifically focuses on the medical technologies sector.

Glen Watson, an ENT Surgeon at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield needed a more accurate model to help him demonstrate benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) to patients and educate them about possible treatments.

After a chance meeting with an AMRC engineer, it was decided that a new piece of 3D printing equipment acquired by the AMRC could be used to design and build a model for Glen that would fulfil his requirements.

BPPV is caused by displaced calcium carbonate crystals from one part of the balance organ into another part (the semi-circular canals) that stabilise vision on head movement. As a result of crystal debris floating around in the canals, confusing signals are sent to the brain causing brief but intense spinning sensations on looking up, down and often turning over in bed.

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A simple but effective treatment is to recognise the condition and perform a liberating or repositioning manoeuvre, to move the crystals into a part of the balance organ where they cause no further problem; akin to completing a ball-in-a-maze puzzle.

Glen Watson said: "Most of the models of the labyrinth concentrated on the cochlea with limited, or no models demonstrating the disease process of BPPV in the semi-circular canals. This made it difficult to explain BPPV to patients and explain how it is treated.

"When I talked about "crystals" that were loose in their head I often received odd looks! The model that Medical ARMC has produced on their 3D printer will enable patients to visualise what is happening and understand the disease in a simple fashion."

The Medical AMRC decided to test the limits of their new FormLabs Form2 3D resin printer and offer to design and print a model of the labyrinth, demonstrating the semi-circular canals, free of charge as a test piece for their new capabilities. The model would be complete with movable crystals that could be seen from the outside.

Valdis Krumins, project engineer at the AMRC, said: "The project for Glen helped us commission and test our new Form2 3D printer. It was a useful learning process stretching the capabilities, and using the whole working envelope of the machine.

"Laser printing in resin allows us to print in translucent material and in high-definition with small intricate details compared to standard fused deposition modelling processes."

Medical AMRC website

Images: Medical AMRC


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