3D printing to train future biomedical engineers

Students at "Semana i"

 Carlos Torreblanca

 5 October 2015

3D printing to train future biomedical engineers at Monterrey Technological Institute, Mexico

University students from across Mexico joined together in one big week of pure innovation with great ideas for neurological patients.

Students at "Semana i"

Students at ‘Semana i’. Photograph: Carlos Torreblanca©

Monterrey Technological Institute (ITESM) is one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico with 31 campuses in several cities. From 21 to 25 September, all these campuses joined into one huge interdisciplinary project with one unique goal in mind: innovation.

Students were free from standard classes and got the chance to participate in workshops and challenges related to their studies. ITESM names this activity ‘Semana i’, which can be translated as ‘Week i’, where ‘i’ stands for innovation.

Different faculties had different activities. Two faculties in two distinct campuses have never the same plans for ‘Semana i’.

I got the chance to participate in the vertical workshop for students of Biomedical Engineering; the faculty director is a strong believer in 3D printing, a technology that will change the world. So they hired me and my company to provide a temporary 3D printing farm for the projects of these young engineers.

The workshop was meant to involve students of all levels into an activity that promoted innovation and teamwork. Its title was ‘Evaluation System of Physical Therapy based on Neurotherapy.’

Students were given the task of creating devices that could measure the neurological input signal for muscles, in order to aid physical therapist and patients in the evaluation of recovery.

Student’s experience

Students at the 3D printing farm

Students at the 3D printing farm. Photograph: Carlos Torreblanca©

During that week, students had access to the 3D printing farm to realize their models and got the chance to talk to patients and therapists.

They also had at their disposal a group of experts and teachers that could help as advisors on the project.

It was a stressful week for both students and me. There were moments that I didn’t think I could finish on time with all the printers.

But the projects and devices created were very inspiring and useful for patients that want to progress in their therapy.

Students had the great opportunity to experience what needing a specific part is and having it done in a few minutes just sending the design to the 3D printer.

The whole workshop took place in a multipurpose classroom where everything is available, from soldering guns to giant pillows for students to take a nap; it’s a true maker space.

The projects

One of the students' projects

One of the students’ projects. Photograph: Carlos Torreblanca©

3D printed cases with specific holes to pass velcro strips and cables were among the most popular designs.

The funniest project was a dog-bone shaped design meant to keep electrodes always at a certain distance.

It also gIves the final prototype a more refined appearance because it keeps all the welding joints and cables inside the shape.

One group of students used Autodesk Tinkerplay to design a particular contraption that could be used for the head.

Overall, it was a great experience to see the mind of future professionals use 3D printing tools in a way that could positively impact the life of many persons.

You could tell, by their smiles, how amazing touching something you’ve designed on a computer is.