How 3D Printing, Lego, and Custom Sleeves Are Helping Hospitals

3D Printing & Imaging Digital Fabrication
How 3D Printing, Lego, and Custom Sleeves Are Helping Hospitals

A wide variety of people have been using maker techniques to help in the medical field, and I was happy to check out some very innovative people and the techniques they were using at this year’s World Maker Faire New York.

Printing for Medical Education

Two of the first medical makers that I met were Doctors Alex Chee and Henry J. Feldman, who both practice at the Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital. While their foremost responsibility is to take care of patients, they are are also tasked with educating the next generation of doctors. While this kind of mentoring has been going on since the beginning of the profession, they have a new tool in 3D modeling and printing that doctors before them could only dream about.

In the image above, Dr. Feldman is showing off his mitral valve repair simulator at their Maker Faire booth, which can be 3D printed at a much lower cost than conventional heart valve simulation devices.

In the image below, Dr. Chee presents a model of an actual patient’s airway. While the material shown here is hard, he’s also developed a technique that uses water-soluble PVA, which can be painted with a rubber material and then washed away in order to form a more natural surface for students to practice navigating the inside of airways with a tiny camera.

Lego Medical Models

Interestingly, young doctors aren’t the only ones being educated with the help of maker techniques. The Lego Medical Models group uses Lego bricks to assist with patient understanding of their treatment regimen. While adults can hopefully visualize what’s going to happen and work through it, this type of tangible illustration is important for children and those with mental conditions that would normally impair their understanding.

This educational tool has helped more children undergo treatment without sedation. As seen above, the calm LEGO figure on the right showcases the goal of this illustration technique.


Peripherally inserted central catheters (commonly known as PIC lines), along with central venous catheters, are used to deliver drugs intravenously over a long period of time. Notably, this can be used for chemotherapy and advanced antibiotics applications. However, when these lines are used on a young child, they tend to pull on them and generally interfere with the treatment.

To help with this issue, Kezia Fitzgerald came up with a sleeve and wrap to help keep these lines safely attached to her daughter Saoirse, who was going through cancer treatment in 2011. After realizing that other young patients were having this issue, she further developed these garments and started selling them as medical devices.

Sreyash Sola: Go With Touch

Sreyash Sola is pictured here with a cane mock up that uses a vibrating motor to give the user some distance feedback. As seen on his website, Sola has come up with several interesting devices, including a xylophone and switch assembly that can be controlled by distance sensing.

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

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