School of Product Design


Project Number: 2019-27

Project Leader: Prof Conan Fee

Host Department: School of Product Design

Project Title: Optimisation of Hydrogel Printer Inks for 3D Printed Tissue Scaffolds

Project outline: Sustained oxygenation of cells remains one of the most challenging barriers to the successful development of soft-tissue replacement in the body. We are developing new tissue scaffolds that will allow the sustained growth of cells implanted in the body by promoting blood oxygenation. To achieve this, we need to 3D-print hydrogel materials, made of cellulose, but little is known about the physical properties of the pre-cursor cellulose solutions and their behaviours when printed. This project involves the characterization of cellulose solutions and gels with a focus on determining how they behave during extrusion in 3D bioprinters. This project builds on several years of experience and prior research with these materials and our recent work that shows very promising results in terms of creating complex 3-dimensional structures using our existing BioPlotter instruments. The work will involve laboratory work to prepare a range of cellulose solution formulations, test their rheological properties and stability both in solution and when gelled, and optimizing these properties and related printer settings to determine the best performance during 3D printing of cellulose hydrogels.

Specific Requirements: Students should have knowledge of physical chemistry. The project would particularly suit students studying Chemical, Natural & Healthcare Product Formulation, Chemical & Process Engineering, Biochemistry or Chemistry.



Project Number: 2019-29

Project Leader: Tim Huber & Hazel Chapman

Host Department: School of Product Design / School of Biology

Project Title: 3D modelling and printing of flower mimics for precision pollination

Project outline: Precision pollination, meaning the attraction of New Zealand native and non-native pollinators towards certain crops, requires a detailed understanding of the role that flower shape, size and colour play in attracting the targeted pollinator. Precisions pollination can be advantageous in commercial settings, for example to increase pollination yield in agri- and horticulture, but also in conservation efforts to attract native pollinators and thus improve pollination of threatened native plant species.

 The modelling and 3D printing of flower mimics will allow us to precisely and independently manipulate individual traits/ trait combinations and tease out the key traits responsible for attracting pollinators. Another advantage of 3D printing is that we can standardise traits within a floral community, a major benefit for data analysis.

However, to study the attractiveness of flower mimics, highly detailed, three-dimensional models of targeted flowers are required to 3D print suitable models. This project aims to develop a library of highly detailed flower models to reproduce biological structures as closely as possible using computer-aided design software (Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks or Autodesk Fusion360).

The printability of those models will be studied using cellulose-based bio-inks and multi-material bioplotters (Advanced Solutions Life Sciences Biobots). This work will require a detailed analysis of the effect of print settings such as extrusion pressure, print speed and printed line width in combination with the viscosity of the most created inks on the shape fidelity of the 3D-printed flower mimics. Additionally, we will explore if a second, water-soluble ink can be used as support material during the 3D printing process to allow more complex models to be created.

Printed models will require drying. We will also analyse if the shrinking and/or warping of the printed model that will occur during the drying step can be influenced by the used infill pattern of the printer to create more realistic flower models.

Specific Requirements: none specified




Project Number: 2019-35

Project Leader: Drs Tom Cochrane (and Aisling OSullivan, Frances Charters)

Host Department: Department of Civil & Natural Resources Engineering

Project Title: Storminator - R&D of the product design features

Project outline: Untreated stormwater runoff is destroying the integrity of our urban rivers. Studies within New Zealand have identified that heavy metals such as zinc and copper are of major concern within freshwaters. Although zinc in trace amounts is an essential element for all biota, at high concentrations it has lethal effects.

Metal roofs have been identified as major contributors of zinc in stormwater. Therefore, the StorminatorTM was invented, a University of Canterbury designed stormwater treatment system, which specifically treats roof runoff, offering a cheap, sustainable and effective solution. The simple design makes use of 'off the shelf' components and mussel shells otherwise ending up in landfill. The vertical design of the StorminatorTM means the system has a zero horizontal footprint and is easily retrofitted to existing buildings or just as easily incorporated into a new build. To date, the StorminatorTM is the only storm water treatment system capable of removing high concentrations of dissolved metals. In collaboration with external partners, seven StorminatorTM systems have been installed around Christchurch. There has been substantial interest from industry and council across Aotearoa also wanting to install Storminator systems.

In order to understand how the StorminatorTM design will can best applied to industry applications, we need to re-examine some of its design features, including how to include new functional components when increasing the size of the Storminatorâ„¢ for wider applications.

This summer project will investigate the current (and previous) prototype designs of the Storminator when increased in size. In particular, it is not well understood how we can cater for treating larger roofs by designing a multiple-cartridge Storminator. The research will explore how best to integrate a flow-splitting/connecting component in developing multiple Storminatorâ„¢ treatment cartridges in one treatment system. Other aspects will help investigate how to improve the product look for making it more marketable.

The summer student will gain insight into working as a research team, coordinating logistics and schedules to field test different components of the revised product design and communicate their research outcomes at focused workshops. They will benefit from working as part of a research team on a common problem and the engineering innovation that has created this design solution. Furthermore, this project will be run in parallel with another engineering summer scholarship, which is focused on quantifying the treatment capacities of different Storminator systems to guide the revised design criteria.

Specific Requirements: The student working on this project will be required to have product design knowledge and/or experience for engineering applications. Ideally they will a senior student in the School of Industrial Product Design at UC.




Project Number: 2019-75

Project Leader: 1. Pram Lakmi Abhayawardhana 2. Conan J. Fee

Host Department: School of Product Design

Project Title: Use of a 'Weed-Derived'  Natural Ingredient in Personal Care and Food Applications

Project outline: Plants of the family Malvaceae have been used by humans for centuries as an important nutritional source and a significant traditional medicinal ingredient in different regions of the world. Many recent studies have investigated the traditional uses of Malva plant species and linked them to the potent activities of the plant extracts as supported by modern research findings. Most Malva species which are reported to be rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, tannins and mucilage have exerted beneficial properties as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, wound healing, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective activities among several others.

These plants, which are regarded as common weeds in New Zealand, are found throughout the country in backyards, roadsides, coastal sites, orchards and vineyards. People are using measures to eradicate them and therefore, no previous phytochemical studies have been performed or the potential use of New Zealand-grown Malva plants in formulations has not been explored. The aim of the research is to perform a phytochemical analysis of the most common mallow species in New Zealand for the first time as this may lead to novel findings different to the rest of the world owing to the unique natural environment and adaptations of the biodiversity in the country. The study will also investigate the potential of using various preparations of the plant extract as a commercially valuable ingredient in personal care and food applications giving a variety of opportunities to the student to get hands on skills in extraction methods, phytochemical screening, formulating and testing of the final preparations.

Specific Requirements: Preferably, General Chemistry and /or Biochemistry. Courses in Analytical Chemistry will be helpful.



Project Number: 2019-120

Project Leader: Tim Huber

Host Department: School of Product Design

Project Title: Product design with Harakeke based all-cellulose composites

Project outline: In this project, we aim to develop new concepts and prototypes for products made together with Kerepeti Paraone of Kororātahi Creative Ltd. using all-cellulose composites (ACCs) made with Harakeke fibres. Cellulose is one of the most abundant biopolymers on earth with ~1.5 × 1012 tons of cellulose and presents an enormous amount of a renewable and biodegradable resource for raw materials. Cellulose fibres are widely recognised for their applicability in eco-friendly composite materials, although unlocking their full potential remains a challenge for their use in industrial applications. Single-polymer composites based on cellulose referred to as “all-cellulose composites” (ACCs) are a new class of bio-based and biodegradable high-performance composite made entirely form cellulose and cellulose-based fibres. Harakeke, or New Zealand flax, is a local high quality cellulose based natural fibre that is not commonly used for the production of ACCs.

ACCs are emerging as a new class of high-quality biocomposite but have found few applications so far. This project aims to develop new products designed specifically to be made out of Harakeke-based ACCs and identify most feasible processing routes for those products. This includes the development and mechanical testing of new materials formulations to achieve the properties required for the use in each designed product.

Specific Requirements: This project is mostly suited to students who have previous knowledge in the field of material science and/or composite processing and understand design processes/