At the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, 3D Printing is utilized at least a couple of times each week to aid surgeons as they tackle some of the most difficult medicine around. In fact, for the past six years the hospital has been working with 3D printing as a way of improving their surgical outcomes and it’s largely thanks to the visionary insight of Arizona State University (ASU) Professor of Engineering David Frakes, PhD.
What Frakes recognized was that the divide between art and science isn’t actually a canyon, but a plateau and that the way that students with arts backgrounds think could provide valuable insight to the more traditionally conceived of practitioners in medicine. It’s not that the doctors and engineers were opposed to change, in fact they are on the front lines of incredible shifts in thought and process, but that they weren’t able to look into the fields of art and design in order to add further paradigm shifting insight, in this case in the form of a 3D printer.
Frakes recruited undergraduate Justin Ryan from the Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, majoring in digital art but with a love for science to help introduce digital modeling and 3D printing to the hospital. Now, Ryan runs the Cardiac 3D Print Lab and is an ASU post-doctoral researcher, something that would have been unimaginable for someone with his background just a few years earlier, but which now makes great sense.
In 2012, a 3D printer was purchased for the hospital by a grant from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Leadership Circle, which meant that the prints no longer had to be sent out and allowed for same day turnaround. It was a revolution and the beginning of the hospital’s rise to being one of the three most prolific model makers in the nation. These models are used to give the surgeons a leg up in preparation before actually performing an operation and have helped hundreds of patients receive the best possible interventions.
“Not only does the print inform the surgeon prior to surgery,” Ryan explained, “it helps a child conceptualize what the tumor actually looks like. After surgery, we give the patient a 3-D print of the tumor and let him or her smash it.”
If there’s any doubt about the contributions to human life, beyond the rational science and technology, being made, get out a box of tissues and watch the above video.