Engineering students collaborate with MU Health Care on 3D printing project

February 09, 2024

Natalie Boyd holding a 3D printed model of the new Children’s Hospital and Birthing Center that will be used as a centerpiece at an event later this month

Mizzou Engineering students are 3D printing small models of a new MU Health Care facility that will be the centerpieces of a community event later this month.

The MU 3D Printing Club partnered with MU Health Care to 3D print models of the new Children’s Hospital and Birthing Center for the Columbia Chamber’s Quarterly Membership Breakfast. The tiny replicas will be the centerpieces of 50 tables at the Feb. 21 event, which means students had to not only figure out how to create the miniaturized model, but they also needed to optimize production.

“We weren’t even sure it would be possible to print the piece, let alone 50 quantities of it,” said Kristen Grusenmeyer, a corporate events and sponsorships supervisor for MU Health Care. “I reached out to the club’s advisor and president to inquire about how the printing would even work, and they were very responsive and willing to help.”

The students worked with Grusenmeyer to obtain architectural files and photographs of the new hospital, and from there used them and computer-aided design software to create a scale model. 3D Printing Club President Natalie Boyd shared that the project exercised the Engineering Design Process, and that working with MU Health Care as a client was a great way to prepare for the workforce.

“We started by communicating with Kristen about the vision and goals for the project and then brainstormed realistic ways to make it happen,” said Boyd. “After that point we began designing the prototypes, printing them, and presenting them in a meeting for feedback. There were several problems we had to overcome, but we just problem-solved until it fit our specifications and made the vision come to life. It’s exactly the work I would be doing if I went into consultation as a career, and it’s exactly the experience employers are looking for after engineering students graduate.”

Grusenmeyer says that while the project hasn’t been without challenges, working with the students has been a fantastic experience.

3D printer printing a smaller model of the new hospital
A smaller model of the new Children’s Hospital and Birthing Center being 3D printed for a color sample

“3D printing is something new to me, but I’ve enjoyed listening and learning as they work together to make it happen,” she said. “They’ve never given up that the model would be printed correctly. They have been very determined from the start of the project and I appreciate all the time they have put in to collaborate with us.”

Boyd, a biological engineering major on the bioprocesses track, says that she has enjoyed the project and the problem solving that it’s inspired.

“I really like challenges and working out creative solutions, so I thought it was fun going back to the drawing board and coming up with something that works better,” she said. “We had to figure out how to maximize our productivity with the number of printers that we have. We experimented with lowering the infill, changing the sizes and picking different colors based on which would look best under the lighting. There was a lot of trial and error to figure out what would work.”

In addition to printing models of the Children’s Hospital and Birthing Center for MU Health Care, 3D printing club is working on other projects for clients on campus and in the community. Currently, they are working to redesign a tactile 3D map, develop an electronic prosthetic hand and create a set of braces for a local woman’s kitten to increase its mobility after an accident.

“The printers are resources to aid our projects,” Boyd said. “We have community members come in from outside the University as well with unique problems and we work with them to come up with solutions. But also, it is a space for students to just come in and learn about 3D printing. So, it’s a little bit of everything for everyone.”

Boyd says the goal of the organization is to be as open and inclusive as possible. They encourage everybody interested in 3D printing to get involved.

“You can come in, to learn and print something fun, or you can join a project and get more involved,” she said. “It’s not always commitment-based, but it can be if you want it to. We want to make it as open and inclusive as possible. All you have to do is show up.”

MU 3D Printing Club hosts meetings Monday through Thursday for their different project groups. Students interested in getting involved can also stop by their room on the first floor of Lafferre Hall (W1065) and scan the QR code outside the door to contact the organization’s officers.

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