Tal Golesworthy has the typical engineer's mindset: he saw one solution to a problem and figured that he could do a better job. Specifically, his aortic root was growing so large that it would soon split. Golesworthy looked what the doctors were doing and knew that he could come up with a superior means of measuring a replacement:
What excited him was the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer-aided design (CAD). He believed that by combining these technologies with rapid prototyping (RP) techniques he could manufacture a tailor-made support that would act as an internal bandage to keep his aorta in place.[...]
’It seemed to me to be pretty obvious that you could scan the heart structure, model it with a CAD routine, then use RP to create a former on which to manufacture a device,’ explained Golesworthy. ’In a sense, conceptually, it was very simple to do. Actually engineering that was significantly more complex.’
The process of developing a scanning protocol proved to be difficult as the movement of the heart complicated the images and made their positions unclear. The engineers, working alongside medical radiographers, found that they had different perspectives. ’They wanted pictures that showed the structures in a way that their colleagues could understand. What we wanted were images with which we could take dimensions,’ said Golesworthy.
So Golesworthy and his colleagues developed a means of scanning the heart consistently at the same point in the cardiac cycle so that they could take accurate measurements of the component that they would need to synthesize. Once they had a computer model of what they needed, they made a functional one from polyethylene terephthalate, which is a common medical polymer.
Link via Popular Science | Photo: The Engineer