On May 12th, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Arundahati Pillai (17) displayed her new invention, a life-size copy of a blood vessel defect. She developed this idea as a way for doctors to practice before difficult surgeries.
Surgery, in general, can be “practiced”. However, each body of a patient is different so doctors can face problems after they open up a body. No operation is riskier than neurosurgery. This is true especially when surgeons treat an aneurysm. An aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge that could develop in the side of a blood vessel. It is a weakened area in the artery.
Arundahati used a patient’s MRI to make a digital model of an aneurysm. She then 3-D printed a solid plastic copy of it. However, 3-D printing creates objects that are hard and solid. Blood vessels are hollow and flexible. So Arundahati’s process included a few extra steps.
After 3-D printing, she leaves the hard plastic copy inside a small box and pours a gel-like material around it. This congeals to create a flexible mold. After slicing the mold, she pulls the hard copy out. With the hard copy, she pours some liquid metal into the mold.
When the metal hardens, she pulls it out of the mold and dips it in liquid silicone. After that coating firms up into a synthetic rubber, she heats the copy again to melt the metal. The result is a plastic anerusym that is hollow and flexible just like a physical one.
As she suggests, Arundahati’s invention can assist medical students who are training to be surgeons. This practice will allow the surgery to go quicker and more successfull.