Hackaday Prize Entry: Helping Millions See Clearly

Slit lamps are prohibitively expensive in the third world areas of India where they are most needed. An invention that’s been around for over a hundred years, the slit lamp is a simple-in-concept way to see and diagnose a large array of ocular issues.

Since they are relatively old by technological standards, the principles behind them have become more and more understood as time has gone on. While a nice lab version with a corneal microscope is certainly better, innovations in manufacturing have brought the theoretical minimum cost of the device way down, or at least that’s what [Kewal Chand Swami] hopes.

His design aims for portability and cost reduction. It must be able to travel to remote locations and it must be significantly cheaper than the lab versions. It uses off-the-shelf lenses in a 3D printed housing with a simple LED torch, the kind you can buy for a dollar at the check-out stand.

The assembly slides onto the user’s head and is held there with straps. The doctor can adjust where the slit the lamp shines and also look through a microscope to diagnose the issue. Hopefully devices like this will see similar community support to the prosthetic projects we’ve covered.

12 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Helping Millions See Clearly

  1. I am very familiar with the traditional item. During the past 12 years I have been treated for cataracts, and detached retina in both eyes. I now have regular check ups to monitor the effects for glaucoma and diabetes, so I have been seeing a specialist at least every 6 months for several years.

    In areas with no permanent clinics and little or no infrastructure this will be an enormous help. Well done, and I wish them the best of luck for the future.

  2. In the US there are many professional people who have come here from India. Most are extremely wealthy, Doctors, Engineers, PhDs. Seriously, why can’t they do something for their homeland and come up with a way to manufacture these inexpensively and send thousands of these back home at no cost?

    1. Are you running a homeless shelter? Not everyone works for a good cause just because people are suffering, that’s just the way is is. Anyway, great project! Keep up the good work!

      1. The Indian government have been doing a lot to mitigate the caste system, over the last few decades. Legally it’s not allowed to discriminate, though of course that doesn’t mean the problems have gone away.

        I think the more likely reason Indian emigrants don’t set up trans-oceanic social programs back in India, is that it would be difficult, require lots of resources and organisation, and mostly they can’t be bothered. There’s stuff we all could be doing to make the world a better place, generally we don’t, though.

  3. I don’t know what a slit lamp is, but looking at the photo, couldn’t all the components be made on a 3d printer? Then simply add lenses (unless a 3d printer can produce a transparent object?).

    1. A slit lamp is that lamp combined with a microscope strapped to a bench. You are sitting by the table holding your head on the special headrest, while the opthalmologist peers into your eye with a microscope. The light from the lamp is projected through a slit and illuminates a narrow vertical band on the surface of your eye, which as far as I know lets the doctor better spot irregularities and abnormalities in your eye.

      The only problem is, I am not sure that this thingie will be more useful than a single ophtalmoscope, since the slit lamp is way more powerful in a sence that it has a good warm light source with all types of adjustments, a good microscope rather than a simple lens, is firmly held in place and has a bunch of extra features like UV light so you can use fluorescein eye drops. These drops light up any damage to your eye surface under UV light as if it was a christmas tree.

      This thing just does nearly the same thing as an ophtalmoscope and those can be bought in bulk for 30-50$ a piece with shipment, are more space-efficient, more ergonomic, more sturdy and are just standart equipment. I am pretty sure you can make those from a couple of lenses, two LEDs, a length of wire and a spool of 3D printer filament too.

      On the other hand, the rural doctors in India might already have those and need a specific thing, a slit-lamp. Then I’m just a smartass.

      If anyone wants to know more about these things, then Youtube, Google Images and Wikipedia have articles, videos and images on these things that do a good job of explaining how these work.

      Source: have eye problems, half a hospital’s opthalmology dept. equipment has been at one point used by an ophtalmologist to peer into my eye and quietly say something like “shit, how’d you get all that?”.

  4. This is interesting. I currently reside in Indonesia. Here there is a Huge failure of basic health-care because the system is essentially a classic Progressive/Socialist “Single-Payer” nightmare. (With simple words; the system doesn’t work for the Poor).

    There have been external NGO’s that have done (and may still-do perhaps) wonderful work to try to mitigate simply-solved problems like cataracts. But in my opinion, the work is not widely adopted because of government control, which adds unnecessary delay and cost.

    In the cataract case it seems to me that the problem is not the availability of simple implants (manufacturer’s are willing to price low for the needy). It is the cost of outreach to diagnose properly, and more-so in the field very low cost implantation with statistically acceptable outcomes on a broad scale.

    Much could be done to solve this problem if Big Government Control got out of the way (aside from an oversight role of-course; Government does have some use).

    Again – just my opinion…

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