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Makerspace Creates Birth Canal for Fairbanks Simulation Center Birthing Mannequin

Makerspace Birth Canal Project original, and new!

Makerspace Birth Canal Project original, and new!Ruth Lilly Medical Library Makerspace staff members, Cassandra Jones and Amanda Papandreou, recently completed a unique long-term project to create a replacement birth canal for the Fairbanks Simulation Center’s birthing mannequin! The use of simulation mannequins is an essential tool used to help train medical professionals and hone their skills and knowledge in obstetrics and gynecology. After years of use the original birth canal in the birthing mannequin had torn in several places, and the special silicone material the original birth canal was crafted from made it difficult to simply repair. This is where the Makerspace team stepped in to create a replacement birth canal.

The RLML Makerspace team determined that the birth canal was made up of two parts, a hard plastic inner frame, and a soft silicone outer shell that stretches to replicate the birthing process. They began by 3D scanning the original birth canal, with assistance from Brian Overshiner from IU Health, to reverse engineer a 3D printed frame for the new birth canal that would fit seamlessly into the birthing mannequin. The team then created a 3D printed mold for the frame of the birth canal to fit into and poured silicone into it to create a new outer shell.

The challenge was in selecting the appropriate type of silicone for the replacement. Since the original birth canal was made of proprietary silicone, the Makerspace team members had to select a new silicone material that was similar in texture. They ultimately decided to use two types of silicone that were already available to the Fairbanks Simulation Center’s staff and would be easy to repair. During the testing phase, the Makerspace team found that the first silicone material was too soft and easy to rip, and the second material would be too tough to act as a birth canal. To achieve the perfect level of strength and flexibility, the team mixed the two types of silicone to create a durable, yet flexible birth canal.

Once the prototype birth canals were finished, the Makerspace staff brought them to the Simulation Center to test out. The team also brought the 3D-printed birth canal mold, 3D model files for the mold and birth canal frame, and instructions for assembly.  The Fairbanks Simulation Center can now easily repair their new birth canals and generate new birth canals as needed resulting in savings in both time and money. Most importantly, thanks to the Ruth Lilly Medical Library Makerspace staff, the birthing mannequin is once more ready to train healthcare providers.

When staff at the Fairbanks Simulation Center were asked for comment on their experience working with the RLML Makerspace staff, Ryan Stambro had this to say: "We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with the brilliant minds of the Ruth Lilly Medical Library Makerspace. They were able and willing to take on a project to remake a birthing canal for a medical birthing simulator for IU Health, at the Simulation Center at Fairbanks Hall. We met with them and discussed what happened, why it happened and how they might be able to help us get the manikin back up and running. They did a great job modeling the birth canal and were able to create a replacement one. We supplied some of the supplies and they came back with a working canal. We thank them for their expertise and time!"

The RLML Makerspace is open to the IU School of Medicine community Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm.

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