No bones about it: Students showcase additive manufacturing

Posted: October 31, 2019

If 3D printing a skeleton sounds like the start of a new Frankenstein reboot, you might be right. Or, you might be a group of undergraduate engineering students looking to showcase new technology in the medical field with Skelly, a 3D printed skeleton produced at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME).

Nick Wallace stands next to Skelly, a 3D printed skeleton in a lab.
Materials science and engineering major Nick Wallace is one of the students who created Skelly, a 3D printed skeleton.
CDME bridges the gap between The Ohio State University’s research capabilities and industry needs in design, manufacturing and technology. While the automotive industry is a mainstay partner of the center, Skelly is indicative of CDME’s involvement in health care, paving the way for new medical technologies, custom orthopedic implants and prototypes surgeons can use for preoperative planning.

“Ohio State has such a vast network of resources, so it’s nice to be able to utilize those,” said Nick Wallace, a fourth-year materials science and engineering student who contributed to Skelly. “It is an incredible experience getting to work with stuff like this.”

Wallace worked with Michael Martinez, a third-year biological engineering major, and Jahnavi Murali, a third-year chemical engineering major, to create the skeleton from start to finish.

Bringing Skelly to life required converting CT scans into a 3D printing file format, then using four different printers—with four different additive manufacturing methods—to construct the individual parts.

The project spanned about two months, with parts taking anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to print. Both plastic and metal materials form Skelly, in addition to a 3D printed heart, kidney and some artificial joints. The students printed the titanium implants with support from local company Proto Precision Additive.

Despite the involved printing, assembly was the most difficult. With no set guide, manual or precedent to follow—and the imperfect process that additive manufacturing naturally is—Wallace found piecing Skelly together a rewarding challenge.

“I’m really proud of what the students accomplished,” said Additive Manufacturing Director Ed Herderick. “To demonstrate the power of additive beyond just printing parts by integrating and assembling them into a complex system like Skelly is the future of this field in health care.”

The skeleton debuted in October at the International Conference on Biofabrication at Ohio State and will be used at more conferences in the future. For now, Skelly resides in the CDME (and hopefully doesn’t cause a fright).

by Brianna Long, College of Engineering student communications assistant

Category: Students