Another novel application of RP is a using RP technology to facilitate an old analysis method: researchers at the University of Warwick have found a way of using a test devised in the 1930s, once used to gauge the stress on the superchargers in Spitfire fighter planes, to model the stress that surgical procedures would put on an aortic aneurysm. Rob Coppinger writes in The Engineer:
Photoelasticity is a technique that has been used for decades in industry. It looks at the patterns of coloured light reflected from the surface of an object to gain a detailed understanding of the stresses on that object.
Initially surgeons had tried placing mechanical strain gauges on an aortic aneurysm as they manipulated it but found that the gauges themselves placed an unwelcome additional physical strain on the aortic aneurysm.
19 Grenda, Ed, http://home.att.net/~castleisland/ind_11.htm.
They turned to researchers at the University of Warwick led by Geoff Calvert who had an idea that would combine photoelastic stress analysis with the technology of rapid prototyping to solve the problem.
The University of Warwick and UCL researchers took a three-dimensional scan of the patient's actual aortic aneurysm and used rapid prototyping technology to produce an exact latex duplicate of the aneurysm. They then covered the duplicate with a reflective coating and used photoelastic stress analysis to examine the stress on the model aneurysm as the surgeon manipulated it.20
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