A new free online course will show how 3D printing and new biocompatible materials allows scientists and surgeons to rethink approaches to healthcare.
The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) has launched the four-week online course ‘Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts’, through UOW’s partnership with global online learning platform FutureLearn.
The partnership with the social learning platform will marry UOW’s research credentials with over 60 global institutions and educators offering a diverse range of free online courses.
The university has joined group in the newly created Centres of Excellence member category, focused on research-based education.
The online course will be led by professor Gordon Wallace, who works in the biomedical science field, and is said to tell the story of the beginnings of 3D printing, how it is currently being used and what will be possible in years to come.
“We started this journey only a few short years ago by taking off-the-shelf office printers and having our engineers rebuild them to be able to print a bio-ink, embedded with human cells, that we had just developed,” Wallace said.
“In the short time since, revolutionary scientific advances in 3D-printing technology and the development of amazing biomaterials, which can seamlessly integrate into the body, means we may be only a few years away from a time when every major hospital will contain 3D printing capabilities.
“This emerging field of biofabrication is being made possible through connections between medicine and technology and we are now seeing previously unimaginable developments, such as prosthetic limbs controlled by thought alone, and bionic implants to restore lost senses, and of course – 3D printing of human organs.”
Wallace leads the UOW-headquartered Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), with equipment and technical support from the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF).
The university said course material will be presented in language understood by a general audience and will use case studies to illustrate the impact that 3D printing already has on the ability to create customised medical devices.
The case studies include the 3D printing of personalised titanium hip implants using selective laser melting, the creation of made-to-fit masks for facial transplant recipients using hot melt extrusion, and the potential for lab-grown organs structured through the ink-jet printing of living cells.
The course is four weeks duration, requiring two hours of study per week. It is aimed at high school leaver considering studying the course at university or current undergraduates.
UOW deputy vice-chancellor academic, Professor Eeva Leinonen, said: “The opportunity to share with a global learning community the impact our research has on everyday lives was an exciting extension of who we are at UOW”.
The UOW centres of excellence that will follow with online courses via FutureLearn are the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), Early Start Research Institute (ESRI) and the Graduate School of Medicine (GSM).