Beyond the Technical
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Beyond the Technical

Some people ask why we have a space program when we could use the money more effectively right here on Old Mother Earth. Those same people would never realize that the spin off from science in space can be found in things we use in many industries on earth from those scientific investigations. For instance; while talking to my father-in-law about this same subject and watching him struggle to put on his sneaker type shoes, I saw him use one foot to press down on the Velcro strap on the other shoe. Dad, I said, “that Velcro strap was created by the NASA Science team in order to fasten a camera in place in the cabin of one of the first capsules we had up there. It just wanted to float around the cabin until an easy method could be found for anchoring it temporarily to the wall. You now use it for keeping your shoes on.” He said nothing in reply after I told him that. Many things in electronics, material science, medical procedures and ways of doing things in industry have benefited by the extreme science endeavors we take.

In fact, I do not think this author could list all or even most of all the great things that have come from mankind’s search of the unknown. Still others would see little or no use for the Personal Computer either. Those same people would admit to knowing one of the greatest minds of some years ago. The person I speak of is none other than Mr. Albert Einstein, who said, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; Humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; Together they are powerful beyond imagination.” He said this long before he knew about or saw the personal computer on desks at home and at work. That is the best tribute to the PC and the Human Mind working together that was ever said. Those creative minds and those companies that employ them will be the subject matter of this article.

Most people today use the P.C. in their work or as a tool at home. Personal Computers are within reach of most of us today. Here I would like to pose a rhetorical question by asking, where would your business or even your personal life be today without the P.C.? Even those that do not use a computer depend upon others that do, like doctors, accountants and so many others. Therefore, it is here to stay.

What is new is not necessarily the computer itself nowadays but the ways that humans interact with it and use it to bring about a better world. First, let me build a little support ground by saying that most of us have never known personally about the horrors of war. That is a good thing but in too many places in the world, it has become an all too familiar occurrence. Wars can exact unbelievable damage to a country and its infrastructure as well as the human bodies that are the casualties of it. When fast moving projectiles and bomb explosions occur, they push outward shrapnel emanating in most directions at high speeds and eventually it will contact with a human body. Without being grossly graphic in this description, these interactions sometimes remove parts of human bodies. These avulsions can cause death, pain and permanent disabling injuries with little or no hope of ever again living a normal life if you survive the initial trauma and the healing process. Then we come to the imagination and technical disciplines of Medical science itself and when joined together with the CAD world or (Computer Assisted Drafting) it becomes one of those resultants that Mr. Einstein talked about. These two independent fields can be very supportive of one another to a degree that still surprises me when I see this done. Here is where a very fine company by the name of Materialise comes in. They have a way that enhances the Medical World and the CAD world to provide missing body parts to those that are in great need of reconstructive surgical intervention.

I am not exaggerating when I explain to you that this miracle combination takes place on a routine basis over in Baghdad and other places throughout the world. The problem there in Baghdad is that you need CT and MRI scanning to be done on those tragically damaged patients and the parts of the body that need to be replaced with prosthetics and this can be a real problem. Electrical power is interrupted and not a constant flow to these badly needed scanning machines in any hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. Lots of them are damaged due to the war and maintenance that needs to be done, but cannot be for lack of parts and trained personnel. Scans of 1mm thicknesses need to be submitted for exacting body part replacement builds but that uses those machines for too long a period of time and since the power needs are not dependable over there, thicker slices are used in order to hurry the process up. Highly skilled doctors have been killed while driving to and from those hospitals and while at work where they attend to their patients. Medical supplies are in short supply as you would imagine, made even worst by not being able to get the supplies to those hospitals that were donated. It is a war on the medical level as well as the foot soldier to keep patients alive while terrorist groups wage war that is being played out all around the hospitals and sometimes inside as a hiding place.

The new use of technologies that brings about the miraculous recoveries are being hindered constantly by a war that goes on without safety nets or neutral zones around vital medical facilities. Doctors without Borders, deems it too unsafe to send in much needed medical doctors and supplies there. Those attempts that have been made explain the bravery unmatched by those who vow to alleviate pain and suffering. The Iraqi doctors and nurses and technical staff are doing an impossible task with little or no help from outside sources. They too should be commended for their bravery while facing such terrible odds. Such is this that makes up of the medical world there at ground zero, war zone, Baghdad, Iraq. Whenever those all important scanned data formats can make it from the scanning rooms it can be sent via emails with the data attached. Places in Europe, like Leuven, Belgium where the Materialise Company was born back in 1990 and the USA, where they are transformed from the raw format data in which they were scanned into replacement parts for those needing them to be implanted during reconstructive surgery.

The Rapid Prototyping industry was first used in Europe by the Materialise Company as a means of making industrial parts. It is now more recently being used to make those medical parts for patients. It is worth mentioning here that this is not being used exclusively in Iraq these days.

By: Richard Williams

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