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Printers For Patients

Project Updates (December 2017)

Over the past few months, we have been very fortunate to enjoy the success and support of everyone involved in this project. From nurses, to hospital staff, to parents and most importantly the patients themselves this project has been a hit. The reception of smiles and excitement when we roll the printer into hospital room is indescribable. With this success (and much trial and error we assure you), we have developed a plan and processes that we believe can be replicated and expanded. This means the project has received the go ahead to scale into a larger service learning class in under the Materials Sciences Department. It also means we need more printers.

Our current printer cart simply cannot handle the volumes we want to print. It also needs some upgrades; including better lighting to see the actual printing, the ability to adjust the height for kids who cannot sit up in the beds, and most importantly, a self-contained power system. We have developed a VOLstarter to aid in the funding of more printers and carts. For clarity, because this is not a fully sanctioned class yet, we must raise the funds ourselves. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for any help in this project.

For larger company or corporations wishing to contribute, please see our Faculty adviser contact below.

What is PfP?

The Printers for Patients project was born out of Material Science students’ desire to serve the community through engineering and service learning. It is a co-operative project of many departments in the Tickle College of Engineering led by the students and faculty of the Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering. We seek to apply engineering technologies and experiences to a hospital setting, improving the stay and experience of patients at our local Children’s Hospital. Currently, this has taken the form of 3D printing personalized, novel, fun and sometimes useful items for children whom are admitted for care.

Why Children’s?

Located less than a mile from Tennessee’s main campus, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital was quickly identified as a place where the engineering skills we have learned can have a lasting and meaningful impact on our community. Working with Volunteer services and ChildLife programs already active within ETCH, we are able to easily use the systems and processes already in place so that our project does not disrupt patient care or hospital operations.

How does it work?

The Material Sciences and Engineering department at UT designed and built a mobile printing cart, completely self-contained except for a power cord. When we want to print, a student and a ChildLife volunteer simply wheel the cart into a patient’s room, plug it in, and start printing! We use touch screen Microsoft Surfaces to run the printers, and walk the child through the process of printing an item. Once they make their selection, we print it, right in front of their eyes! Watching their design come to life is often mesmerizing, offering a welcome distraction from the rigors of treatment.

What are we printing?

Anything and everything! A child’s imagination is truly a place of infinite possibilities. We have printed everything from Halloween skeletons, to anatomically correct model organs, to Power T’s, to butterflies and everything in-between. Some of the kids have even taken it upon themselves to design their own items, knowing we will be printing!

How can I help?

We are in constant need of new printers, spare parts, printing plastic and other supplies. We have a Volstarter in which you can donate to help purchase the items that keep this program alive and the kids smiling. For donations of materials or equipment, please contact us directly at the information below. If you are a student at UT, we will soon be putting together a process that will enable you to apply for a cart volunteer position (or possibly sign up for a service learning class for credit!).

Stay updated on this project with our bi-weekly newsletter! Enter your email below and we will be sure to keep you updated on our impact at the hospital, as well as wonderful stories of our success from the volunteers who make this possible!



Project Lead: Brandon Rowell

Faculty Adviser: Chris Wetteland

Hospital Adviser: Cheryl Allmon

For supporting this project, we would like to thank the Center for Materials Processing, The Tickle College of Engineering, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and the Tennessee Alumni community.