Over the last year, we’ve seen great advancements with how 3D printing can, and is, moving the scientific research needle, especially in the healthcare world. From building custom body part replacements, to organ models for surgery prep, 3D printing is taking healthcare research to the next level.

With the Discov3ry Paste Extruder now in more than 50 university research labs world-wide, we expect to see a lot more activity with nanomaterials and biopolymers.

As we eagerly await the results from these teams, we caught up with one research lab which has been using the Discov3ry for the past six months. Research Associate, Joshua Qua Hiansen and PhD Candidate Daniel Southwick from the Semaphore Lab, gave us a tour of their lab, and talked to us about their research.

As early adopters of the Discov3ry Universal Paste Extruder, and in conjunction with Dr. Meineri and Dr. Mashari from Toronto General Hospital’s Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab, researchers at the Semaphore Research Cluster, led by Professor Matt Ratto, have been conducting experiments with the Discov3ry Paste Extruder to determine its efficacy for the creation of low cost medical models. The Discov3ry has allowed them to move beyond mould-injection methods and print human organ replicas directly with silicone, saving valuable resources.    

To date, they’ve been working on getting their prototypes right with simple-to-test and easy-to-implement materials. Using RTV silicone and the Discov3ry, the team from Semaphore and Toronto General Hospital have produced heart valves from CT scans. Given the mostly-hollow intricacy of the heart, a dissolvable filament and moulds are still used for the larger, more complex organs.

Their next major step will be to move away from silicone, and start testing biopolymer materials with their “Liquidoodle” – the name they’ve dubbed their Solidoodle & Discov3ry combination. The team is also experimenting with other materials to help further research in the 3D printing as an additive process.

We will be following along closely with their research. Can’t wait to see the results.


About the Researchers

While Hiansen and Southwick are part of the Semaphore research team, they focus on separate elements of the 3D printing process.

Josh Hiansen is focused on the various modelling techniques and 3D printing as it relates to medical scanning. Over a period of a few months, he has printed medical organ models, essentially to provide test models for imaging (ultrasounds, etc.).  For example, his Bespoken Brain research will allow for better hands on medical training and preparation for complex surgeries. He continues his research into the use of 3D printing to develop patient-specific medical models as a Biomedical Industrial Designer with Dr. Meineri and Mashari at the Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab in Toronto General Hospital. To learn more, visit Semaphore People.

Dan Southwick is focused on the process behind 3D printing and how the industry is evolving. His research with the Critical Making Lab focuses on Additive Manufacturing and seeks to combine both theoretical and applied frameworks to understand the social, cultural, and political implications of these technologies. Daniel is interested in knowledge practices, intellectual property, and materiality. To learn more, visit Semaphore People.

About the Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab

The Advanced Perioperative Imaging Lab is a new lab within the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute.  Led by Dr. Meineri and Mashari, the lab is focused on the use and development of emerging technologies, such as open source software and 3D printing, for use within medicine and medical research.  

About the Semaphore Lab

Semaphore is a research cluster at the iSchool, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, dedicated to inclusive design in the area of mobile and pervasive computing. Semaphore is part of the Inclusive Design Institute, and funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) New Initiatives Fund and associated ORF-RE. The IDI effort is interdisciplinary and cross-institutional, involving researchers from eight collaborating partner institutions across several departments and fields. Semaphore (website).