DIY Vein Finder Shows You Where To Stick It

Everyone who’s donated blood, gotten an intravenous (IV) line put in, or has taken a blood test knows that little bit of anxiety before the needle goes in. Will this be a one stick operation, or will the phlebotomist do their impression of drilling for oil while trying to find a vein? Some of us are blessed with easy to find blood vessels. Others end up walking out looking like they’ve been in a fight with a needle.

[Alex’s] wife girlfriend is a nurse who’s had trouble finding veins in the past. [Alex] is an automotive engineer by trade, more acquainted with oil lines than veins and arteries. While he couldn’t help her himself, [Alex] designed this 3D printed vein finder to help his wife girlfriend out at work. He started by studying devices on the market. Products like Veinlite use LEDs to illuminate the skin. Essentially these products are a string of LEDs and a battery. They are patented, FDA approved, and will set you back between $188 and $549 USD. [Alex] and his wife girlfriend couldn’t afford that kind of cost, so he built his own.

The LEDs are the key to this device. The deoxygenated blood in the veins absorbs light, which makes the veins appear as dark lines on the skin. [Alex] found that it takes 15 11 LEDs between 620 nm and 680 nm. The LEDs also need to have the proper brightness. Less than 4000 mcd won’t be bright enough. More than 6000 mcd will blinding to the user. A few current limiting resistors, a switch, and the electronic design was done.

The case took several revisions to get right. Veinlite uses a C shape, which allows the IV needle to be passed through the slot and inserted in the lite field. [Alex] was able to clone this design in his own vein finder.

If LEDs aren’t high-tech enough for you, there are other devices out there which use a camera and projector to create an augmented image of the veins right on the patients skin. If you want to go more than skin deep, check out this DIY CT scanner from the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

73 thoughts on “DIY Vein Finder Shows You Where To Stick It

        1. I do, but you can get nothing when aspirating and still have a bunch of blood harmlessly come out when you remove the needle. Aspirating tells you if you are about to accidentally inject into a vein, and not whether you broke a blood vessel on the way to the muscle.

          I administer my shots exactly the way the nurse taught me to, so I’m not worried about safety, its just annoying. I’m also wondering if such a device could be used to find an optimal place to administer for other reasons: some parts of the skin really hurt to poke, other sections near by seem to have little sensitivity.

  1. I need to make one for my local doctor for my blood tests. For some reason no one seems to be able to find my vein at all through my fair skin and I end up walking out looking like a well loved dart board.

    1. Is grammar of Nutzi so deep? That concordance of message invalidates; new skill or unique application. How rectally are you suffering from impound. Makes thou and thine REKTUM in formation of dead bricks so pained? Utter a big noes on a “yeah homie, don’t get or un-understood…” What missive is this context?

      Is the flower of more import then the seed it brings?

      1. If the flower makes you think the seed is an egg then the flower is misleading. If the flower tells you that one of its misshapen petals is that which you seek; it is wrong.

  2. > They are patented, FDA approved, and will set you back between $188 and $549 USD.

    No wonder health care is so expensive in this country when the average price of a medical device containing some LEDs and batteries is over $200.

    1. It isn’t just the LEDs and batteries, it is the extensive research that was done to prove the tech actually works. You know, the research that the person who made this DIY version didn’t have to pay for because they could just read about it.

      1. It isn’t just the research either, unfortunately it’s also the insurance to protect against people whom decide to sue because Uncle Bob died while the equipment was in use, and because he was in perfect health before it must have been because the equipment was defective, therefore we’re suing you because you made faulty equipment…..

        You want to know how bad it is? If I have to repair equipment I can’t just run to the nearest electronics store to get an equivalent part, because if I do I have ‘modified’ the equipment and now the hospital (and myself personally) are now fully liable for any patient harm caused by this equipment. This is how you end up with items such as a $110 on/off switch, which looks just like the one on my UPS at home, but because it’s not an ‘OEM’ part we can’t use the $10 version without being liable for millions if something goes wrong.

        Been working on medical equipment for 20 years, and that’s a “cheap” example. (don’t get us started on O-rings)

        All that being said, I like his approach to trying to help bring the cost of healthcare down while increasing the quality of such care.

        1. Poor excuse for a $562 dollar dose of Aspirin. We ain’t building rockets or selling souls, NORMAL people are trying to keep people alive and not extirpate their wallets from their existence. FYI! We sign enough forms. Why not a form for using and applying unique medical tech? They do that all the damn time.

          “I don’t wanna be stabbed 100 times” “Sorry it’s the accepted practice”….
          “I don’t wanna be stabbed 100 times” “Well there is some tech but isn’t 100% FDA approved that would bring that number down to less then 10… But you’d need a disclaimer for this piece and version of tech? Do you want to sign?”

          Please, by all means go play a paintball match ANYWHERE and READ…FFS.

    2. Keep in mind that the commercial device has been through various testing and certification processes that this device has not.

      Sure, on the surface it’s a bunch of LEDs + CC drive in a piece of plastic, however, I’m pretty sure the commercial device was not just thrown together and that there was much research and testing to determine the optimal size, shape, color, brightness and uniformity in the LEDs. Certification is also not cheap and though I’m not sure of the exact requirements, I wouldn’t be surprised if there needed to be a number of studies performed to prove that the device worked as intended and was safe. All of this takes time and money and adds to the final cost of the device.

    3. Certification chains are expensive.
      You aren’t paying for 20 LEDs and a lithium battery, you’re paying for the guarantee that it won’t kill the patient or cause a misdiagnosis.

        1. “Guarantee” means you back it up with legal responsibility, including the massive liability for being sued if someone accidentally dies.

          While this is just a light, hitting an artery instead of a vein, in the right (wrong) places, can cause huge spurts of blood and serious injury. If our guy had got the wrong LEDs supplied, or misunderstood something, injury could come about, and it would be the fault of the nurse for not using proper equipment.

          Medical mistakes can have big effects on patients’ lives. As well as the “Uncle Bob” thing mentioned earlier, where patients’ emotions won’t let them accept that their relative was gonna die, and no amount of proper medical practice would help. Even a false claim has to go to court, with all it’s expenses.

          Can’t be helped. Medical stuff costs more cos you’re dealing with people’s valuable lives. Of course there’s always the opportunity to stick a load of profit into the price as well.

    4. Well even those who supply medical equipment deserve a reasonable return on investment. Any ROI that doesn’t have the earnings that the same amount of money invested in a mutual fund means nothing new isn’t going to be developed or manufactured. I doubt few who read those figures are in position to determine if they are actually out of line or not from a fair business perspective.

  3. Good on him, a LOT of medical equipment is over priced junk. A finger SPO2 sats probe, 2 LED’s and 2 Photo transistors with a piece of plastic wrapped around it and bit of very flimsy wire is typically over $200 in Aus.

    $900 for an electric ring cutter, which consists of well known cheap and nasty electric screwdriver attached to a manual ring cutter. Jewellery stores sell a very similar thing for under a $100.

    Sure there is some nesecary regulation and a bit of back up and training but nothing comparable to the prices charged.

    1. Hi Alex,

      I’ve made corrections to the article. Switched “wife” to “girlfriend, and changed out the main image. The 15 LEDs thing was a misunderstanding, and this article didn’t say it literally blinded people. The point was, too much light and you lose the benefit it is trying to achieved. I’ve tried to clarify that.

      Thanks for letting us know. Will you please touch up your YouTube description? Thanks.

  4. Alex,
    I want to personally thank you for making this for your wife. When my mother-in-law was in her last days in hospice, the nurses had a hard time hitting her veins and the vein finders that they had were either POS or the power cords were trashed.

    I would love to see you take it a step further and get it more refined but just the fact that you took the time to do this means a lot to a lot of people,


  5. My daughter is VERY impresses and wishes she had one of these when she was working as a nurse in one of our local hospitals. This is a handy device and good addition to a medical bag.

    1. She’d never be able to use it legally. In fact, it is 100% worthless to the medical industry. As many have said already, it would take lots of time and money to certify it and get FDA approval. It would probably need to be redesigned so it could be sterilized. I suspect that any hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, etc that used it would be reprimanded, fined, and/or lose certain things like access to medicare/medicade reimbursement.

      Also, maybe in person it is better, but I thought it was pretty worthless from that video. I can find a vein with anatomical knowledge and a flashlight much easier.

      1. That’s well true :-) Especially as some places install dim blue lights in the toilets to make it more difficult to find veins – and give frightening atmosphere for any normal user of the toilet. OK, blood stains and used syringes are sure not less frightening.

    1. Except in Amsterdam where black-lights are in all bathrooms. Ergo even with this it wouldn’t outshine the Fluorescent blubs. Nancy Kuunt Regan is that you? The war is long over and LOST… Wake up.

  6. Works the other way, too. Back in the good old days, when Amsterdam had a large heroin problem, many local bars and restaurants had blue or red lightbulbs in the toilets so the junkies wouldn’t be able to find their veins.

      1. Nope blue protects night vision. Submarines have used blue lighting for that forever. It doesn’t interfere with the Night Vision goggles.

        Also in general aviation there is a blue green variant that is heavily used in cockpits as it preserves your vision and allows you to read maps easily. red light washes out map details.

  7. Why medical devices are expensive. Thanks ObamaCare!

    Medical Device Excise Tax

    Section 4191 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes an excise tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer or importer of the device.

    On Dec. 5, 2012, the IRS and the Department of the Treasury issued final regulations on the new 2.3-percent medical device excise tax (IRC §4191) that manufacturers and importers began to pay on their sales of certain medical devices starting in 2013. On Dec. 5, 2012, the IRS and the Department of the Treasury also issued Notice 2012-77, which provides interim guidance on certain issues related to the medical device excise tax.

    1. Uh, you forgot “The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Pub. L. 114-113), signed into law on Dec. 18, 2015, includes a two year moratorium on the medical device excise tax imposed by Internal Revenue Code section 4191. Thus, the medical device excise tax does not apply to the sale of a taxable medical device by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of the device during the period beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, and ending on Dec. 31, 2017.” You know, the law SIGNED BY OBAMA stopping this tax for 2 years…

    1. Don’t be a douche-bag Bruh. Considering where he lives I wouldn’t be surprised if the lady in his life isn’t looking for a golden ticket. Commitment issues? Let’s get technical. If the code and firmware is busted sometimes you deal with it cause their isn’t anything better. You wanted a open hardware Optimized FPGA design yet stuck with a AllWinner Cortex board.

  8. Now, if only they could make something to keep veins from rolling or deflating when a needle comes near, I’d be all set! I guess I’ll have to live with my port a bit longer…

  9. Thanks! I am currently weighing the risk of an infection in a port or picc line against the 2-6 sticks 2x a week to get an IV in place for my medications. I have been researching options other than spending 100s of dollars for a medical grade vein finder. I am currently thinking about just using either a string of red led lights, wrapped around my arm or a red led flashlights pointed at my arm as my nurse locates usable veins. The 3d printed case is a nice touch, but at this point I am looking for cheap and easy and willing to skip any extras.

    The case probably protects the users eyes?

  10. I hope to see my Mail!!
    Hello from Greece.. I am nurse also and I would also to try for personal convenience with elders because it is affordable and no Thousand dollars costly!
    Can you please mention the kit with spare parts components used to fixed and where to find them? If possible to buy from you..

    Many Many Thanks best Regards

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