Teaching with Technology Home » Scalable 3D Printing Promotes Learning for Dental Med Students

“My, what big teeth you have!” may sound like a line from Little Red Riding Hood, but around here it’s a statement more likely heard when visiting 3D Visualization Specialist Gary Wisser’s office for the first time.

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The oversized teeth decorating Gary’s bookcase are just a sample of the 3D printouts Gary has produced for faculty at WesternU, but they represent an important benefit of 3D printing: The ability to scale models up or down.tooth-large-small

In addition to durability, the ability to produce 3D replicas of varying size provides a unique educational opportunity. Real life objects which are often too small to examine without the aid of magnifiers can blown up to a more accommodating size. The oversized tooth models which served as source objects for the printouts below are a prime example of this technique.

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iris_printerThe models above were produced using an Mcor Iris 3D Color Printer. The printer uses standard office paper to create full color objects that are completely recyclable. The process is fairly simple. Using special software, a digital 3D model is virtually cut into paper-thin layers exactly the thickness of a sheet of paper.  Next, a color inkjet printer prints each slice of the model onto a separate sheet of real paper. The stack of printed slices is then loaded into the Mcor IRIS machine, which uses a process called selective deposition lamination.

Each sheet is laid down, and its slice shape is cut into it. Then a print nozzle lays soft glue all over the non-essential parts of that sheet that will be broken away after manufacture. A higher density glue is applied to the sections of the paper that will be used to form the final model. Then, the next sheet is drawn over the top of it, and the stack is pressed up against a heat plate that seals the two layers together.

Once all layers have been cut, glued and pressed together, the object comes out of the printer as a chunky sheaf of paper. But the waste material, with its softer glue, is slightly flexible and pre-cut into little cubes, so it pulls away quickly and easily from the much tougher, denser material of the object itself. Even without an outer coating, the final objects feel very solid, similar to medium density wood.

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Scalable 3D prints have also been used to teach cranial anatomy to OMM students. One of the smallest and most delicate cranial bones is the ethmoid, which also happens to have a very complex structure. With scalable 3D printing, the life size model on the right can be enlarged to show the various plates and fissures more easily seen in the left hand model.

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For more information on scalable color printing, please contact:

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Gary Wisser, 3D Visualization Specialist, at gwisser@westernu.edu

 

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