A 3D printer installed in the medical school last year has printed more than 30 models like hands and brain cells since the resource was added, officials said.
The pilot phase of the printer, which lasted about three months, ended on Feb. 28, and officials said they will now charge a “small fee” to cover the cost of materials associated with the printing process. Students in the medical school said having access to a 3D printer allows for more hands-on learning to help study physical structures in the body, like muscle and tissue.
The 3D printer was added to the Himmelfarb Library in the medical school’s flagship building last year for students and faculty in the medical, nursing and public health schools to print 3D structures. Printing services were free during the pilot period.
Anne Linton, the director of the Himmelfarb Library and an adjunct associate professor of medicine, said the printer and associated supplies were initially funded by a grant from the Women’s Board Foundation.
Linton said that during the pilot period, “minimal restrictions” were placed on the types of items that could be printed. She said that while people who used the printer cannot submit items that are protected by copyright, patent or trademark, many libraries with 3D object files offer items ranging from prosthetic arm components to molecules in brain models.
“Providing students and faculty access to a 3D printer allows them to create models of anatomical structures, molecules and other items that can then be integrated into the curriculum or reinforce the information that is being taught in class,” Linton said in an email.
Abhya Vij, a first-year student in the medical school, said she first saw information about the printer on the Himmelfarb Library website before Dec. 7, and started thinking about what she wanted to print “right away.” She said she used the printer to create a model of a life-sized hand with movable fingers and thumb joints.
Vij added that she is using the hand to mimic muscle contractions.
“Having access to a 3D printer is a really awesome way to help students branch out and try something new,” she said in an email. “I was already familiar with 3D printing from high school and undergrad, so felt confident about submitting something.”
Vij said the 3D printer can be used to create almost anything that fits on an 8-inch by 8-inch platform. She said her design was printed in multiple parts, and a staff member in the library was “very accommodating” and helped edit the files submitted to the printer to separate each part of the design.
“For other SMHS students, I would highly recommend using it to prototype any innovative ideas you have, or even to make models for educational purposes,” she said.
Rachael Herrera, a first-year medical school student, said she used the printer to create a cube that features six sides with different depths. The deepness of each side, like a cup or a tablespoon, served as a measuring tool for a job she wanted at a bakery, she said.
“I think it is important to have at GW because it allows a different dimension of creativity and it is a fun way to bring your ideas to life,” Herrera said in an email.
Sajani Desai, also a first-year medical school student, said she made a cutlery drainer in the shape of an elephant because she “thought it was a fun idea” and wanted to test out the 3D printing technology.
“It turned out really well, and in the future, I can see using the printer for projects that might be improved by making an idea physically tangible or even using it to prototype a product,” Desai said in an email. “I think it’s an important resource to have at GW because of these reasons, especially if the printer’s use is widely and easily accessible to all students.”