Hong Kong – Have you ever imagined life-sized blood vessels and aortic valves be produced by 3D printing? This is possible with the opening of the new University Research Facility in 3D Printing at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
With 3D printing playing an increasingly important role in innovation and technological advances across a range of fields, PolyU has established this new facility to support teaching, learning and research. Unique in the local higher education sector, the facility is Hong Kong’s largest in terms of the range and quantity of equipment available.
The 620 square-metre facility offers a full range of advanced technologies from 3D scanning and computer aided-design modelling to printing, allowing students to realise ideas and concepts in physical models and academics to develop prototypes.
The new facility has also started to benefit the healthcare sector through the development of patient-specific 3D printed models to allow medical device prototyping, surgical planning and clinical training. In particular, PolyU has developed a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) simulation model in collaboration with Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Hong Kong.
Designed to allow the simulation of a minimally invasive procedure that replaces open-heart surgery, this TAVI model benefits patients and helps train doctors. Given the heightened risks faced by the elderly during open-heart surgery and the ageing population around the world, this made-in-Hong Kong advanced approach to training contributed significantly to better healthcare quality both locally and globally. It also benefits practitioners in that no X-rays are involved in the simulation, unlike traditional methods.
Working with simulation training experts and cardiologists at QEH, the team at PolyU put their expertise to work in developing a model that accommodates life-sized, 3D printed blood vessels and aortic valves based on patients’ computed tomography images. The model imitates human circulation in terms of fluid flow and temperature, and has a built-in rotatable camera and a screen for displaying real-time black-and-white images.
The model has obvious advantages in general training and preparing clinicians for specific surgeries, honing their skills early and extensively, enhancing teamwork and shortening procedure times. For the benefit of patients, the model can also be valuable in allowing the repetition of failure cases to determine what can be avoided by clinicians in the future.