UT Student Makes Human Heart Model on 3D Printer

At the Longhorn Maker Studio at the University of Texas, there is a basement full of 3D printers cranking out plastic “Hook ‘Em” horns and skulls.

Student Wesley Hejl thought he'd try his hand at something practical.

“It was like, ‘Well, I’m an engineering student, I have access to these printers, why don’t I just try something?’” Hejl said.

What Hejl made was a 3D heart. The model heart is similar in shape and size to a human’s heart, and it’s now in the hands of doctors at Seton. The goal is to show heart patients what to expect before they have surgery.

“You could look at it and say, ‘This is what my heart is going to look like and this is what it will look like with a device on, and this is where the connection is made,’” Dr. Ernie Haeusslein with Seton said.

At the UT studio, software shows the printer what to do, and a spool feeds the stuff for the finished 3D heart.

“It deposits the plastic over and over again, and it slowly creates a third shape that you tell it to create,” Hejl said.

The process takes about four hours, but the possibilities are endless.

“Ultimately you could start to reproduce tissue,” Haeusslein said. ”You could have cells and blood vessels, recreate organs.”

Hejl says one day he'd like to invent a 3D heart with actual chambers, just like the real thing.