Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 05 Jun 2013, and is filled under Volume 8 No 1 & 2.

Current post is tagged

, , , , , , , , , , ,

3D Printing: Potential and Possibilities

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Technology in Education Column

by Dr Sandra Bassendowski

The Technology in Education column is written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, who is a Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important feature for the CJNI – this column is focused on how technology can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Saskatchewan for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.


3D Printing

3D Printing

“It’s true, consumers may not yet fully understand 3D printing, but the companies they know and love surely get it (Ulanoff, 2012, 3D Printing ¶1).

A few weeks ago, I was at my photography class learning how to do studio portraits.  Each student in the class was asked to bring a friend or family member to the class so that we could practice our emerging skills.  One of the models was a teenager and he brought a 3D model of “Ironman” to the classroom.  I was amazed at this object and when he asked if I wanted to take a photo of it, I quickly took the opportunity!

I got home and decided I needed to learn more about 3D printers. I found out that although they have been around for about 30 years, the potential and possibilities of 3D printers are just beginning to be recognized.  I found a primer on 3D printing that discusses current perspectives of this type of printing and provided some useful examples for individual and organizational use.

Scientists are already using 3D printers to make prosthetic body parts. Although it is amazing technology, it is creating a number of ethical and legal situations. Dimitrov, Schreve, & de Beer, (2006) discuss implications and challenges in the fields of design and engineering analysis, medicine, and architecture. One of the articles I read indicated that a person can sketch or copy products from online or actual products and then make a copy on the 3D printer. So- what about copyright? As nursing educators, we are careful about using anyone else’s material or products in our online or traditional classrooms without providing adequate copyright information or permission. How do copyright regulations address this emerging technology?

However, on the positive side, I can think of many ways that a 3D printer would be useful in the classroom or nursing lab.  What about creating small models of human body parts or of equipment so that students have an opportunity to work with the objects?  What about designing new items for use in the classroom that reflect the teaching outcomes?   I would love some objects that are abstract in nature and could be used to teach students about change theories or innovation.  How many times have you thought about a situation where you needed an object to clarify or demonstrate a particularly difficult nursing concept?

Just as with other technologies, I believe that innovation regarding new products will be driven by the ability of individuals to make what they can imagine!  When my younger son was about four years of age- he could not say the word ‘imagination’ and always said it as ‘magic-nation’ and from my perspective, this word is truly reflective of 3D printing!


Dimitrov, D.,  Schreve, K., & de Beer, N. (2006). Advances in three dimensional printing – state of the art and future perspectives. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 12(3), pp.136 – 147.

Ulaboff, L. (2012). 11 big tech trends that you will see in 2013. Mashable. Retrieved from


Personal photograph (2013)

Return to Index

Return to Index

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.