3D possibilities at WCC

Graphic by Dorothy Gacioch | Washtenaw Voice

Graphic by Dorothy Gacioch | Washtenaw Voice

By Suni Jo Roberts
Staff Writer

“We are trying to make toys with a purpose,” said Thomas Penird, a WCC faculty member in industrial technology.

Thomas Penird, along with his Mechatronics class, built a plastic hand using a 3D printer for an 8-year-old girl. The girl, named Lucy, was born without a hand.

Lucy now has a blue and red, fully functioning, 3D printed hand. Thomas Penird showed a video at the Board of Trustees meeting of Lucy eating at Zingerman’s restaurant, picking up a piece of food and putting it in her mouth.

The class presented this project to the Board to show the results of three newly purchased 3D printers. These printers were purchased with funds made available by a CC step grant.

“When I go to conferences like National Science Foundation there are all kind of campuses that are working on cheap prosthetic devices because there are a lot people in this country that can’t afford a $100K prosthetic
device designed by engineers that are selling them to the hospital,” said Penird. “If we can 3D print something for $100 and put another $100 of electronics onto it and have it function through a muscle motion then we’ve done something positive.”

Right now, all of the 3D printers at WCC make plastic objects but Penird hopes to expand the materials they use into metal. Metal 3D printers have uses in medical devices, such as bone implants.

“If we get this 3D metal printer it opens up a whole realm,” said Penird. “We could have Ph.D students that will be over here working with our students potentially doing medical devices.”

At a conference last year, a WCC group talked to a professor from Pittsburgh who is working with magnesium. They learned how magnesium can be absorbed by the body, which makes it useful as a temprary implant. One hopeful idea for the temporary implant is bone grafts; the bone will recalcify over the magnesium as the body heals itself.

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