Using 3D printing and chemical engineering, six School of Engineering students at the University of Connecticut have designed and developed a prototype of a low-cost, functional kidney.
The students were led by director Anson Ma, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Bio Molecular Engineering. The task that the students were assigned with was to find a solution for transplantable kidneys which are in limited supply. With nearly 100,000 people waiting for kidneys in the US, and only 14,000 transplants taking place this year, demand far outweighs supply. The discovery of a way to 3D print functional kidneys that are viable for human transplants would prove to be a groundbreaking discovery.
“The objective of the design project is to get these students to combine the latest technology and their chemical engineering knowledge, learned over their four years at UConn, to solve a technical problem where we can make a difference,” said Ma. “Can they push the technology further?”
The students were split into two teams and each team took a different approach. While one team used hollow fiber technology, the other team utilized techniques such as electrodialysis and forward osmosis.
The teams collaborated with University of Connecticut technology partner ACT Group of Cromwell, Connecticut, to select a 3D printer and polymers to print out their design.
The 3D printed artificial kidney projects were presented on May 2, 2014 at the School of Engineering Senior Design Demonstration Day.