17 Mar 16 06 May 16

MSF technology: Exciting future for MSF hospital design

Thanks to three-dimensional printing and virtual reality (VR), Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) current method of designing its hospitals could be a thing of the past.

The standard practice for MSF when designing a hospital involves our medical and logistical teams working around two-dimensional drawings.

 “The idea of this project was really to see how we can make use of three-dimensional printing technologies and virtual reality to help MSF better design our hospitals,” said Elvina Motard, MSF Technical Team Leader.

Virtual MSF hospital

Elvina worked with expert consultants to take existing plans for a hospital MSF built in the Philippines – following the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan – and digitised them. The hospital was then 3D printed and a VR experience was developed in a game engine, generating a virtual world where the user can navigate through the hospital using a VR headset and a game pad.

 “Such technologies will undoubtedly make discussions more efficient, more vivid and more graphic,” said Jean Pletinckx, MSF Director of Logistics.

“They will allow people to really see themselves inside our future hospitals and this will improve hospital design as well as training and briefings. It will also allow our partners, like local ministries of health, to better understand what we can provide and better feedback on our suggestions.”

The 3D printing and VR project took only four months from conception to final delivery.

Future projects will be even faster given that all of the 3D items created during this test phase are now ready and available for use.

Future of MSF design

Whilst the Philippines hospital was a ‘proof of concept’ developed in an already built and working hospital, in the near future, 3D models will be able to be sent digitally anywhere in the world and viewed on any web browser.

Ultimately, our field staff will be able to view and evaluate the design beforehand, ensuring that structure design is carried out in the most efficient way.

“As the project develops further, it will be possible to create a dynamic environment, simulating patient and staff movements,” says Jean Pletinckx.

“We are at a stage now where our staff will really be able to feel or see what they will face in the field before they leave and indeed, even before the structure is built.

“There is no doubt that this is the way we will work in the future.”

MSF and 3D printing/VR

MSF developed this project in partnership with Pyxsis, a Belgian leader in the field of 3D and VR.

We are looking to build partnerships with other companies, foundations or universities to assist in humanitarian innovations. 

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