CAD is Where the Heart is: 3D Modeling of Artificial Hearts

Artificial Hearts and 3D Design

PLS Artificial HeartIt comes as no surprise that 3D modeling is used in a wide range of product development, everything from automotive parts to household products to medical devices. Perhaps one of the most exciting uses of 3D modeling is in designing artificial hearts, and PTC Creo CAD 3D modeling software is on the front lines of this cutting-edge technology.

The Need for Artificial Hearts

Some quick statistics on heart transplants and the growing need for artificial hearts:

  • Heart disease is the planet’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, killing 7.4 million people annually.
  • The need for donor hearts is skyrocketing, but the number of hearts available is flat and falling.
  • 4000 people in the U.S. and over 3,000 in the European Union are waiting for donor hearts (estimates from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the European Commission Department of Health).
  • Artificial hearts have been used mainly as a bridge to keep patients alive until a human heart becomes available. Since viable artificial hearts were first invented 45 years ago, only 1,413 have been implanted (about 30 per year).

Doctors have come to prefer ventricular assist devices—which can help the patient’s own heart pump blood—over full-scale artificial hearts, due to the following issues:

  • Artificial hearts are often rejected by patients’ bodies.
  • They can impede blood flow and cause strokes.
  • They are very expensive (in the neighborhood of $250,000).
  • Artificial hears are typically more than twice as big as a human heart.
  • The risk of infection is high, the more elements implanted raises this risk.

3D Modeling and Artificial Heart Design

Racing to develop the next generation of artificial hearts that will combat these problems, Takashi Isoyama and a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo Graduate School are using 3D CAD software to model the heart, complete with animation that can show the way blood will flow through it. 3D models accelerated the process of designing the blades for the turbo pump, versus two-dimensional CAD.

The Tokyo team used Creo software to design a non-contact rotary pump that consists of a shaft and a bearing. The 3D models sped up the process, Isoyama says, and made it easier to export the plans to computer-aided engineering software such as ANSYS for the next step: precision-machining the parts.

Isoyama’s artificial heart design, the Helical Flow Total Artificial Heart, has already been implanted into a goat (which was kept alive for a record 100 days), and the final model for animal use could be ready by 2016, with a human model following five or more years down the road.

PTC is proud to be a part of artificial heart technology, with our advances in 3D modeling and simulation, which will be used to save lives in the future.

Photos courtesy of the University of Tokyo