An added dimension to Christmas decorations

Engineers at Monash University have embraced the Christmas spirit by turning the Woodside Innovation Centre into Santa’s workshop. A group of 10 PhD students recently donated their time to create 3D printed Christmas ornaments for Muscular Dystrophy Australia’s Little Miracles project.

The original ornaments were handmade by children affected by Muscular Dystrophy. The replica decorations developed at Monash are being sold to raise much-needed awareness and funds for people living with the disorder.

Chair of the Woodside Innovation Centre and Head of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor Nick Birbilis, said that it was a great learning experience for the students, some of whom were new to 3D printing.

“We had this huge spectrum of skills, so the final products reflect the different engineers' interpretations of how to reproduce those original ornaments,” he said.

In addition to the technical skills around 3D printing, design and scanning that the students learned, they also gained experience working to specifications and meeting the challenges posed by the technology. One particularly tricky decoration was originally made from foil, so the item needed to be  scanned  in  order to create a faithful replica.

The students created 200 ornaments, which were the result of approximately 1000 hours of printing time and 350 hours of work by the engineers.

“The amazing thing is that something like this wouldn’t have been possible a year ago,” Professor Birbilis said, speaking of the design capabilities and number of printers that were necessary.

“It's the biggest single mobilisation of production that we've ever done,” he added.

The Woodside Innovation Centre was integral to the project, supplying materials, equipment, and the assistance of two seconded engineers, who also benefitted from the experience with 3D scanning in particular.

Muscular Dystrophy Australia’s Executive Director, Boris M Struk, said Muscular Dystrophy Australia was thrilled to be partnering with Monash University for the campaign.

“We’ve had this idea for a while and thanks to the generosity and skills of the engineers at Monash University we are now able to turn it into a reality.”

Qing Cao is one of the PhD students who worked on Little Miracles. Professor Birbilis supervises her research into steel pipeline corrosion and gave Qing an introduction to 3D printing.

“He taught me a lot about 3D printing when I came into his group,” she said.

As well as benefitting a very worthy cause and being thoroughly enjoyable for the participants, the project will stand the students in good stead for their careers.

“I want to learn more about 3D printing relating to biomaterial fields because I want to print a 3D heart in the future which can help save people's lives!” Qing said.