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Learn@Lunch with Kate Dunn, UNSW Built Environment

Introduction by Professor Michael Ostwald

My name is Michael Ostwald. I'm associate dean at the faculty of Built Environment and Professor of Architecture. I'll be introducing our speakers today and handling any questions as well.

I'd like to start by taking this opportunity to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the traditional land owners or land custodians for the land on which we're meeting. I'd like to acknowledge their elders, past, present, and future and any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who are present.

I'd also like to thank members of our Scientia Circle who helped sponsor and support this work through their various bequests and who make this possible today.

Now, before I introduce our speaker today, I'd like to ask you all to turn your mobile phones to silent, note where the exits are, and also we're being recorded today and this will be podcast on the university's alumni website, so remember that when asking any questions later.

Dr Kate Dunn is a senior lecturer in the faculty of the Built Environment and School of Architecture and Design. It's a great pleasure for me to introduce Kate today as she's one of those people who has worked across art and design in my faculty of Built Environment and she brings together expertise in multiple fields.

Specifically, her research investigates 3D printing, digital fabrication and robotics, with a particular focus on the development of sustainable materials and processes for these systems. Kate's research builds on traditional material processes and integrates them into new technology and it's a great interest that a lot of her applications are not just in built environment and design, but in medicine and also in multi-variable data visualisation, sets the application of ideas across multiple disciplines.

Kate has more than 15-years experience teaching and researching in Australian universities and she also has exhibited her design and work on more than 45 occasions in Australia and internationally. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Kate Dunn.

2.17 | Learn@Lunch presentation by Dr Kate Dunn

Hi everybody. Firstly, I just want to say thank you so much for coming out in the middle of a busy time and coming and sharing your lunchtime with me. It's lovely to be here. I'm very proud to be here.

As you heard, I work in the faculty of Built Environment My background is around design. So how can human-centred design improve health outcomes?

Australia's healthcare system to date has been deeply rooted in the sciences and more broadly the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It's quite a linear research trajectory with very considered and demonstrable outcomes.

Design can approach problems from a whole range of different disciplines. We can offer creative, lateral as well as linear, solutions to problems that focus on the user experience. This allows for faster and sometimes unexpected outcomes.

As we move into the future with a rapidly ageing population, there'll be more complex social issues that require clever, agile, and people- centric solutions. This is particularly important in the field of healthcare.

Design education is one of the ways that we do that. Stanford University had the since 2004. The uses a range of design methods across all of the disciplines to help people develop their creative abilities and address all sorts of problems. It's a place, a community, and a mindset.

At UNSW, we have 17,000 students now studying design in the faculties of. Built Environment, Art and Design, and now all of our undergraduate students. Engineering students now studied design in their programme. When the creative disciplines such as design collaborate with STEM disciplines to address problems, new solutions are possible.

In the healthcare system, this is translating to advances such as better design prosthetics, robots that assist nurses with repetitive tasks and more functional, friendly spaces such as the Starlight Foundation spaces in our children's hospitals.

Today I'm going to talk about two projects. The first one is around 3D printed surgical simulations. These are a series of projects that look at how my design skills and my team's design skills can help out in this field.

Performing surgery that requires drilling-on manipulations of bones presents many challenges. While surgeons are highly skilled at working with the human body, everybody is different and surgery may be the result of a unique physical condition that requires incredible skill and precision to treat. For paediatric surgery, the challenge is greater still, taking into account the much smaller scale of a child's skeletal system. These are challenges that design approaches to 3D printing can help to solve.

So what can design bring? There's a couple of things that design brings and it's a word that's used everywhere at the moment and a lot of people affiliated with product design or fashion design, but there's a whole range of things that are happening in design. So the first one is co-design. I'll go through and explain these in a minute. Another thing that design is bringing to this project is advanced fabrication and prototyping, material research, computation design, gamification and soft robotics.

So, co-design. This is the team of people that I'm working with at the moment. Myself from Built Environment, Dr. Blake Cochran from UNSW Medicine, my industry partner, Dr Teagan Chang from Westmead Children's Hospital's Epic Lab and Associate Professor Hank Hausler who runs our computational design programme. We offer substantial advanced fabrication and prototyping.

Um. Press... Oh, I'm just going to go back. Sorry. Okay. Thank you.

[Video starts]

... to inspire exploration, innovation and research into fabrication, emerging technologies and design techniques. We boast 11 different spaces, each housing a unique group of machines, materials and making possibilities.

3D-printing is an example of additive manufacturing where an object is created through adding layer after layer of material. The Digital Fabrication Lab has a variety of printers that students and researchers can use depending on their design.

Modelling software is used to design a 3D object. Our staff help students to lay out and slice their 3D model to create a G-code file, which the printer can recognise.

The most common material we use to print is PLA, but there are many types of filaments available. 3D-prints help designers to convey the scale and feel of their design. Our students use the 3D-printers to create scale models, prototypes and working models of their designs.

The Design Futures Lab has 10 laser cutters available for students and researchers to use. The lasers allow for fast precision cutting and engraving of acrylic, cardboard and wood, from a computer image and vector file. Our students use the laser cutters to create models of buildings, academic product designs, graphics for presentations, and much more.

The Advanced Manufacturing Lab is home to two large format flat-band CNC routers, furniture and model making and of four-axis CNC mills to make complex tools and metal objects. In contrast to the 3D-printer, CNC work is a subtracting manufacturing process. We can take virtually any raw material and selectively remove from them until we arrive at a feature product.

Amongst many outlooks, our students use CNCs to realise their industrial design prototypes at full scale and to push the boundaries of fabrication in innovative ways.

The Metal Workshop is fully equipped for working with metal. We can cut, roll, bend and join all manner of shapes. Our students use the Metal Workshop to create scale models of their designs and to visually present their ideas. And with new precision welding tables … high-end accurate finished products come to life.

Open 24 hours to all Built Environment students, our spaces are built for collaborative design purposes. The photocopiers are a great tool for sketch models while the big tables are perfect for model making.

For more information for the Design Features Lab, head to our website.

[Video ends]

So that's an amazing space for us to be able to do research and we do a lot of teaching in this space, but we also work with industry partners within the space on a range of projects.

Model making. Models offer the potential for haptic feedback, so touch, and a physical understanding of the spatial relations of different elements. You can touch them, move around them, see them from different angles. In design, this can be architectural models. In the case of medicine, different physiologies.

Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney needs 3D-print models of infant bones that can mimic the exact size and shape and properties of the child they're about to operate on to advance accuracy and ultimately results.

However, currently they're buying a product called... They're from Dr. Sawbones. These products, which doesn't inspire confidence, sometimes. These are basically made of expanding foam. They come in three different sizes. None of them are in paediatric sizes. These bones mimic the material qualities of bone to some extent. So they use them for training registrars and for testing implants and so on. However, they're not scaled to the size of the person they're working with.

The other option they have at the moment is a 3D-printed PLA or plastic like you would have just seen in the last video. However, I'm not sure if there's any orthopaedic surgeons in the room, but if you drill into plastic, it just burns and melts. So there's a lot of things that are needed that it's not meeting. And currently, there's nothing available in the market that simulates bone in this way that can be used for testing, simulation and training.

These are some of the bones. So they're trying out different ways to implant different products and they're using housing silicon to see if they can put in the joint between the bones with these different products.

So a couple of years ago, a surgeon from the hospital said, "Do you think you could make something that's sort of like bone?" I have a background in ceramic 3D-printing. I started testing and coming up with some different product ideas as to how we might meet that need. At the hospital they use existing plastic simulations and this is Dr. Gillian Lee testing different screw positions with the existing one. But remembering that they need to operate on babies and small children, this is not a very satisfactory mimic.

So we tested out different types of 3D-printing at UNSW. We have, I'm very happy to say, some of the best 3D-printers in Australia. We have a lot of FDM printers, or Fused Deposition Modelling printers, parts printers, and we increasingly have robotic 3D-printers, which can do a range of scales, sizes, etc.

So testing out all those different types of 3D- printers, but we're looking at how we could do material research to make that happen. So last year, we began testing a range of filaments, powders and binders for 3D-printing that behave like bone when cut through or drilled into. And materials are sourced from a range of industries. Not many of them are from medicine. Construction, sculpture, agriculture and special effects.

The beautiful thing about studying in design is you're not limited to one way of doing something. You can draw inspiration and information from the gamut of industries and approaches. So we started with what our bones made of, calcium and collagen. Surprisingly, very simple ingredients that are found just about everywhere.

And these are some of the tests that we've started with. So the one on the left is a powder-printed product and this on the right is a FDM-printed product. So this is PLA and this is a product that's starting to work with calcium carbonate in the powder. We're starting to have these tested at the hospital, so we've had it made into a filament and we're printing skulls to see how they register through different x-ray machines and MRI machines.

And these are some of the different tests and how they're working. So the workshop is starting to look a little bit like a morgue at times. There's bones everywhere.

The other approach that we're taking is looking at how can we use some of the technologies that we have for predictive modelling. So, using computational design, we can vary the density within the bone structure. I'm not sure if there's any medical experts in the room, but this is osteoporosis. So looking at how the bone gets more fragile over time. So we're looking to see if we can now 3D-print something of what might happen to somebody with a particular disease in four to five years. So we've been testing these and they're printing and going quite well.

The other approach that we're bringing from the design sector is gamification. I'm not sure if any of you had a game when you were a kid called Operation. You had Operation? Yeah. Well, this is a doctor I met in Florida. I was invited over for a 3D-print conference and he is a computer-guided neurosurgery specialist. His workshop, which I'd never been into before, he saws through things with a giant bandsaw. He uses tiny drill bits and he uses a gaming system to train surgeons as to how to drill into the brain. He's made it so that there's a sensor inside, you drill into it. When you hit the right spot, you get a good noise. When you hit the wrong spot, bah! You get a bad noise. And that's the way we're starting to use gamification, not just in medicine but in training generally. To be honest, it makes it lighter and I'd much rather they practise in this way than practising on me. That's one project.

The other project that I'm going to tell you about is another way that we're using design and some of the fabrication process that we're using. So it's 3D-printed prosthetics for children with partially missing fingers. So this is a project with Dr. Timothy Scott from UNSW. He's a rehab specialist and he's looking to working with kids who have partially missing fingers who are now not using the prosthetic that was prescribed to them. They're starting to 3D-print these models that you can download off the internet and they're not super effective, they're not super well designed. So we're looking at how can we design it better and we're analysing why the kids don't want to use the prosthetic that they were given from the hospital. Partly because they're horrible. I've seen them.

So we're looking at different approaches to that and what kind of materials we can use and what kind of silicons 3D-printing processes we can use to make a better design that kids actually want to wear.

Strangely, it crosses over very closely with a product that's being developed in another industry in robotics. So robotics are designing and building very quickly end effectors. This is a collaborative robot. It's a cooker robot. We have two of them in the workshop at the moment. We're the first university in Australia to actually get them up and running and moving and they're end effectors. It's very much designed to mimic a hand and what we want from the robot is the hand to be able to move like a human does and use and pick up and not crush things.

So these are the current end effectors that you can buy on the market. The one on the left is like a vacuum. It's like a tiny Dyson that sucks up things. It's okay, but it's clunky. The one on the right, as you can imagine, if you put something delicate like fruit in it, it's going to crush it and bruise it. While I'm working on the prosthetic project, I'm working on this one at the same time and drawing from the robotics sector to see what I can add into prosthetics in health.

These are some examples of some of the soft robotics and how they're working. And you can see the design approach. While the hand is not necessarily critical, they're looking at different ways to pick up and mimic different hand motions.

So these are some of the starts. I've got a master student working on this project now. So these are some of the ones she's looking at and working out how to test and build end effectors. And then, these are some of the tests we're doing. So we're looking at embedding sensors and insert silicon to create end effectors that respond like a hand. We're testing pressure and temperature, initially. So these are some of the projects we're working on at the moment and then they cross over into health.

So what's next? Where do we go from here and how do we build this? I think the critical thing is to collaborate and to have opportunities for design and health to work together and to have input from a range of people and it needs to be at an undergraduate level, it needs to be at an honours level, it needs to be at postgraduate level and in industry. So that's kind of where I'm at at the moment. I'm going to keep working on these bone projects and on the prosthetics projects and see where we get to.

Thank you, everybody.

19:45 | Q+A session led by Professor Michael Ostwald

Michael:                           Thank you very much Kate. There's now an opportunity for us to ask questions to Kate and we also have a microphone or two that will be passed around the room, looking hopefully at the back of the room to see if they're ready, so that we can record your questions and people listening to the podcast can also follow along.

                                           So do we have any questions for Kate? We just wait a second one while the microphone is winding its way to you.

Audience 1:                      Thank you. Could you perhaps clarify the last part where you're talking about hands that can grip [crosstalk 00:20:24] like. Is the objective to then link that hand up with the remaining part of the person's and then the brain and sends messages to that?

Kate:                                  Eventually. Eventually, yes. I mean, we work with biomed as well, so yes, that is eventually where we want head. At the moment, it's about function, it's about aesthetics and it's about achieving something that kids like to wear. But eventually, yes, we'd like to move into connections.

Audience 1:                     Can I ask one more?

Kate:                                 Yeah, please.

Audience 1:                     When Horatio Nelson lost his arm, he said much later that he still could envisage his hand, his fingers gripping the palm of the missing hand and I think the topic's like phantom limbs?

Kate:                                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Audience 1:                     And whether your work in this area would examine that phenomenon of phantom limbs?

Kate:                                 To be honest, I think that's one of my approach to any research, is to work with a team of experts. I'm from Design. I can't address all of the elements.

                                            But yeah, I think one of the things that we're finding a lot is that how people like to use the prosthetics, why they use them, why they don't, what they need. So that's where design and user-centred design can really help. Like, what do you want out of a prosthetic? With the little kid, is it to ride a bike or a scooter? Do you need the same prosthetic to eat your dinner as you do to ride the scooter? We met with one kid and he has one to play guitar and another one for getting around. Sometimes he doesn't like to wait any prosthetic.

                                           So the user-centred design talks to the people that actually have to wear it to say, "What do you want and how do you want to use it and what do you need?" So that's the focus. But yeah, in terms of phantom hands, if that was something that was really critical, I think that's something we'd have to think about in the design.

Audience 2:                     This one. Hi.

Kste:                                 Hi.

Audience 2:                     One of the questions I have is how do you go about developing your design students collaboration skills?

Kate:                                  Ha ha. That's funny you should ask, actually. I'm running a communications course at the moment, Design communication. I have 400 students from seven disciplines. Some of them engineering, some of them landscaping, some of them planning, and then they're working with industrial designers.

                                            So how do we get them to collaborate? Well, like any collaboration, it's communication and what platforms you can use for communication. The way we're approaching it is that we're making them work in teams and they get one mark for the entire project and they all get the same mark, so they have to collaborate. Some of them really resent it, some of them don't like it. And some of them have said to me, "Why do I have to learn how to communicate?" I won't cite which discipline that was from, but we could. So it's getting them from the beginning to learn how to talk to each other and to understand that every discipline has something to offer.

                                           Personally, I don't think any discipline is the solution. I think all of us together can. And I think, to be honest, UNSW's great at that. UNSW is one of the best universities for collaboration because the disciplines talk to each other and work together. They get their first assessment on Sunday night, so there was a few tears yesterday in the studio and we'll see how we go.

Michael:                            Thanks very much for your presentation, Kate. In a sense, my question is a followup. So collaboration, as you say, is important. What's your experience been as a designer working with the medical profession? Have people in medicine and health had a lot of experience working with designers and is this something new or has this been going on for a long time?

Kate:                                 I've had a lot of people from medicine express interest in working with designers. I think one of the most difficult thing is a lot of people from medicine don't know designers, they don't know anybody. And when you think of design, it's like me trying to understand the field of medicine. It's so specific and niche that I don't understand who to go and find, sometimes.

                                           So when someone wants to work with a designer, they get one, you start to build a relationship and then you work out, Oh, that designer actually can't do what I need. So in some ways I found people, for me, to be receptive. As long as I'm very respectful and try and acknowledge what I don't know. I think that's one of the most important things. And then look at how I can work with people in medicine to solve problems.

                                           To me, design is a way to solve problems. It's, it's a systematic approach to addressing issues. the solutions don't always come from where you think they might come from. Sometimes as I was saying, my material research comes from, I'm working with products like sugar, like calcium carbonate, like silicon. They're from special effects, they're from cooking, they're from lots of different things. And because of the way I've been trained to pull things from all different places, it helps me arrive at solutions from unexpected directions.

                                           But, love to collaborate. If anybody has some challenges that they like us at the Design department to try and address, just let us know. It's exciting for us.

Michael:                           Okay. Thanks very much for the really interesting talk.

Kate:                                Thank you.

Michael:                            I'm getting back to the prosthetics thing. I was wondering whether you looked at any of the agricultural robots that people have been working at. They've been doing a lot of work, I believe, with fruit picking robots, which have the same issues about control, but also visual issues about selecting the correct pieces of fruit, et cetera.

Kate:                                  Yeah, yeah. So agriculture, I love the pragmatism of agriculture. You just need to get the job done. What's the quickest, best way to do that. And that's an approach that's really helpful in coming to solutions. Integrating humans with those robots is sometimes the harder part. But yeah, that's a really logical place.

                                           Sometimes agriculture, I find that they fix things quickly and they don't always build an elaborate elegant system, but they make a system that works. So yeah, we're looking at how they might approach fruit picking, but also for people using cutlery and things like that. It's a logical link, yeah.

Michael:                           Are there any more questions? We have one down in the front row, one in the back. We'll start on the back.

Audience 3:                     Sorry, I'm was just thinking, in the surfboard-making industry, there's a huge amount of waste--

Kate:                                Phenomenal.

Audience 3:                     ... from cutting the board, and I was just thinking in your area of design, and I can see the filament, there's no waste. But with other materials, is there? As part of the objectives to the sustainability and the minimise waste from the materials that are being used?

Kate:                                  Absolutely. It's critical. Particularly, we have 3000 students, so in the university we're very conscious of it. There's certain products that we don't use. We don't use MDF because of the glues in MDF. We try and recycle our filaments. We only use PLA, which is polylactic acid, which is based on cornstarch. We don't use ABS plastic because we don't need it. We don't need to build products that last  a hundred years in most of our situations. So we look at a needs-based approach.

                                           The beautiful thing about digital fabrication is that you can start to take sustainability into consideration. I'm very wary of saying that we do something but then it's not actually possible. So we try and actually live up to what we say we're going to do in design and in fabrication.

                                         Does that answer the question? Yeah.


Audience 4:                     Hi. Thanks for your great presentation.

Kate:                                Oh, thank you.

Audience 4:                      The question please, you said you're going to look into how to interface an arm or a hand with the nervous system, but how do you initiate the prosthetic actually working now? If a child was here, how does that requirement go to the head?

Kate:                                  Yeah, so at the moment we're using, I actually had a video, but I didn't play it. We use a very mechanical approach. We're working with engineers who are amazing at working out the quickest system to pull the fingers in and out. So at this stage we're an early testing.

                                           The other system that we're looking to move things is called soft robotics. So using air, pneumatic processes. We're a long way from connecting things to the brain. At the moment, we're just looking at the structure and ways of moving things.

Audience 4:                     So if a child wants to grab an apple, what does the child--

Kate:                                How do they activate it?

Audience 4:                    Yeah. [inaudible comment]

Kate                                 That's a great idea. I like that. I can add AI and that's a great idea. At the moment, it's just be like a button push.

                                           It's early stages. One of the biggest issues is the cost. Prosthetics in hospital, I'm not sure if someone's familiar with that sector, but they're expensive. Two to $3,000. And then you get one, and with an infant you can imagine they grow so fast. So how do you keep up and how do you supply them? Also, a lot of the prosthetics are flesh-coloured. For little girls or teenage girls, they don't particularly want to wear that. So how do we think about function and aesthetics in the same time, in the same approach?

Kate:                                Hi.

Audience 5:                     Hi Kate. I'm Lena.

Kate:                                Hi Lena.

Audience 5:                     I'm a student from AGSM.

Kate:                                 Oh, hi!

Audience 5:                     Very interesting and informative presentation.

Kate:                                Thank you.

Audience 5:                      I'm really curious, as a nation, when do you think we can scale this? When can we have that rich pickings of designers where we know where to look? Not just, I guess, looking towards universities like UNSW. When are we ready?

Kate:                                  To have to integrate design?

Audience 5:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kate:                                  To be honest, I think it's happening anyway. The Commonwealth Bank has a design lab, AMP has a design lab. I think it's becoming increasingly part of business. I think the trick is to have it not the hype of design thinking. It's about outcomes. Because design thinking has a lot of airplay. You know, we'll come in and we'll do five-day workshop and your whole industry is now going to be agile and pivot and you're all going to be able to come up with brilliant creative solutions in two days. Then everyone goes back to work and they're overworked and tired.

                                           To be honest, I'd like to see design in every discipline from the outset, in education, in schools, problems. It's basically problem solving, in a way. How do we do it and how do we take risks and be creative? So that's, as a nation, I want it in kindy. That's what I would like to see, yeah.

Michael:                           Thank you very much.

                                           Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like us to please thank Dr. Kate Dunn for the presentation today. Kate talked about collaborative design and the faculty of the Built Environment, collaborating with people from industry, people from the professions, people working in all fields is one of our core things we undertake.

                                            If you're interested in any way in collaborating with Kate or supporting her research or introducing her to people who you think she needs to meet, can we please talk to Jim Climber afterwards, who's our development manager in the faculty.

                                            UNSW also has a programme for career-ready mentoring whereby former alumni and professionals can volunteer to spend their time or provide resources to help our current students transition into their careers. If you're interested in this and supporting us in this way, please talk to Dominic who was at the back of the room.

                                           I'd also like to thank you all for attending and hope to see you at the next Learn at Lunch, which is actually led by our vice chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs. He'll be speaking on cancers of the cervix and ovaries and providing a background and story to the human tragedy of screening and prevention.

                                          Thank you all for attending. Please consider attending the next talk and we'll see you outside in a little while. Thank you very much.

Kate:                                Thanks everyone.

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