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New 3D printing lab in Ohio State’s Health Sciences Library enhances experiential education for students

Undergraduate students complete a laboratory experiment in the EdTech Incubator’s 3D Printing Lab
Undergraduate students complete a laboratory experiment in the EdTech Incubator’s 3D Printing Lab

A new 3D printing experiential laboratory at The Ohio State University will facilitate the convergence of medicine and engineering while offering an environment where transformative technology is used to enhance classroom teaching and learning. The lab, which hosted its first class on February 15, is part of the EdTech Incubator located in the Health Sciences Library at Prior Hall. 

The EdTech Incubator’s 3D Printing Lab is presented as a partnership between Ohio State’s Medical Modeling Materials and Manufacturing (M4) Lab, Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME), College of Engineering, Health Sciences Library, and College of Medicine

Featuring approximately 30 resin-based 3D printers, the space offers an environment where students can gain hands-on experience leveraging 3D printing technology. It is the first “experience zone” to populate the EdTech Incubator, which was designed to foster collaborative exploration in teaching, learning, and research. 

“To our knowledge, there is no other resin-based, experiential lab like this in the world for students,” Edward Herderick, the director of additive manufacturing at CDME, said. “I’ve dedicated my whole career to 3D printing, and a big part of that is making it more accessible to more users. I’ve envisioned for years having a lab where all students have access to their own 3D printer.”

Herderick watched his vision come to life as materials science and engineering students entered the space for the first time to use the 3D printers for a laboratory experiment. Their course, MATSCEN 3332, is instructed by David Dean, an associate professor in materials science and engineering and the director of the Osteo Engineering Laboratory. In the course, Dean is teaching the application of 3D printing for biomedical applications, specifically tissue engineering. 

“We’re trying to teach students about bioresorbable materials and the opportunity to 3D print them,” Dean said. “The reason you would want to do that is because you can print a porosity, an internal geometry, that would guide tissue in, and then by the time the tissue is forming and starting to work, it would go away. The resorbable part is why it’s tissue engineering.”

The 30 resin-based 3D printers are used for biomedical applications
The 30 resin-based 3D printers are used for biomedical applications

According to Herderick, most 3D printing labs use filament-based extrusion printing. The material used in resin 3D printers is a liquid resin instead of a spool of filament. One of the key benefits of the resin-based 3D printers applicable to biomedical engineering is the opportunity to print at a higher resolution. 

While providing access to resin-based 3D printers is valuable for student experiential learning, it’s one component of providing a more comprehensive educational experience. 

“It’s not just about the 3D printers; it’s about the entire digital thread,” Herderick explained. “For this class of third-year undergraduate engineering students, they’re learning cutting-edge software to make these lattice structures, which is in and of itself valuable. Then they get hands-on experience with the 3D printers, which adds value. After this, they’ll do materials testing.”

That process takes place over three weeks of the course and mirrors an actual industrial project. 

“I know from talking with my industrial collaborators at CDME who are always recruiting our students how important it is to provide this type of education at an undergraduate level,” Herderick said. “They’re getting this snapshot into the entire digital thread at a really opportune time of their educational experience.”

Bringing together interdisciplinary collaborators under one roof is an objective of the EdTech Incubator. That mission, particularly to align medicine, technology, and engineering, is shared by Herderick and his team at CDME and the M4 Lab. 

Prof. David Dean (left) and Edward Herderick (center) guided the first class of students in the newly introduced lab
David Dean (left) and Edward Herderick (center) instruct the first class of students in the EdTech Incubator

“The collaboration between medicine and engineering is a natural fit,” Herderick said. “We were connected with the Health Sciences Library through our collaborator with the M4 Lab, Dr. Kyle VanKoevering. They were looking for innovative technology, and I was looking for the right place to set up a 3D printing lab where students can come in, everyone gets their own printer, and everyone gets hands-on experience. It was the perfect timing.”

Opening the 3D Printing Lab represents the first step of the group’s collaborative plans within the EdTech Incubator. The next step envisioned for the group is developing a space for augmented and virtual reality for surgical planning.

“We’re using this as a launchpad for something much bigger,” Herderick said.

In the meantime, engineering students will continue leveraging 3D printers to enhance their classroom experience. 

“For me, I get the most satisfaction out of seeing the students in this space, getting direct 3D printing experience," Herderick said. "After spending most of my career in industrial 3D printing practice, I’ve been able to impact a lot of students over the last few years at Ohio State. This space allows us to impact more.”

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