An Open Source Sip-and-Puff Mouse for Affordable Accessibility

At the core of any assistive technology is finding a way to do something with whatever abilities the user has available. This can be especially difficult in the case of quadriplegia sufferers, the loss of control of upper and lower limbs caused by spinal cord damage in the cervical region. Quadriplegics can gain some control of their world with a “Sip-and-puff” device, which give the user control via blowing or sucking on a mouthpiece.

A sip-and-puff can make a world of difference to a quadriplegic, but they’re not exactly cheap. So to help out a friend, [Jfieldcap] designed and built an open source sip-and-puff mouse on the cheap. As is best for such devices, the design is simple and robust. The hollow 3D-printed mouthpiece acts as handle for a joystick module , and a length of tubing connects the mouthpiece to a pressure sensor. An Arduino lets the user move his head to position the cursor; hard sips and puffs are interpreted as left and right clicks, while soft mouth pressure is used for scrolling. In conjunction with some of the accessibility tools in modern OSes and personal assistant software like Siri or Cortana, the sip-and-puff opens up the online world, and for all of $50 in material.

We’re impressed by the effort and the results, but we worry that the standard PLA used for the mouthpiece won’t stand up to the cleaning it’ll need. Of course, printing extra mouthpieces is easy, but since it’s going to be in contact with the mouth, perhaps a review of food-safe 3D-printing is in order.

19 thoughts on “An Open Source Sip-and-Puff Mouse for Affordable Accessibility

  1. this is really great stuff what I find disgusting, if if you price up ready made off the shelf stuff like this it is astronomically priced, for some reason people think its okay to gouge others with physical challenges…

    1. That’s a very fine build, finally a use of a 3D printer, very good quality project standing out of the regular instructable trash.
      But I agree, using an existing pipe/vape mouthpiece would make it perfect and even serviceable.
      Using arduino micro pro is perfect with HID/mouse native support.
      Just add a small rubber bellows and it’s a finished job.

  2. Or, you could make it so that a 1\8 piece of food safe cove pipe used for water could be put in down a central line so it can be replaced with ease for cleaning. It all parts need to be 3d for a 3d printed structure to be useful.

  3. A bacterial filter in line with the pneumatic switch, at the mouth end of the tube would help prolong the switch as well.

    I love seeing stuff like this. I work in the medical industry and the prices charged by most manufacturers( suppliers) is down right rude. Yes there are regulatory costs and training and support that need to be factored in. But as is the case of mobility aids often the recipient is broke, with little or no income. There is a balance but many big companies take the whole industry for a ride.

    1. Yes, it is — if you want to give your users a responsive pointer. Using simple switches means that the pointer would move at a fixed speed in each direction, while analogue inputs allow a smoother pointer acceleration model.

      The open source sip and puff mouse that the not-for-profit I work for has developed — the LipSync, http://www.makersmakingchange.com/lipsync/ — uses four force sensitive resistors to form a short-throw analogue joystick. It’s similar to the method used in some older IBM ScrollPoint devices.

      The ‘Sup is a neat design. When prototyping the LipSync, the PS2 joystick module we tried required a bit much movement and caused fatigue in user tests. The LipSync doesn’t use a 3D printed mouthpiece for hygiene reasons. Instead, it uses a Qosina Luer-lock threaded mouthpiece and breath filter.

      Developing the mount for a sip and puff device is the really hard part. If anyone knows of a cheap, light, strong automatically-stowing/deploying universal chair and bed mount, we’d love to hear about it!

      Stewart Russell
      Regional Coordinator (Central Canada)
      Neil Squire Society’s Makers Making Change.

      1. Thanks for the very informative answer! Was just wondering if a simple 5 axis digital joystick would provide enough control when going for a extremely cost optimized design.

        That a trackpoint module (or are there actual PS2 joysticks?) wouldn’t be ideal is a bit disappointing as those can be found for relatively low prices sometimes. Perhaps it would be possible to change the sensitivity of the device…

  4. This is an amazing and worthwhile undertaking. I love seeing these serious quality-of-life type projects and wish that, for all my cleverness, I were smart enough to do such _actually useful_ things.

    That said… Printing the mouthpiece in Nylon, or more realistically PETG, would alleviate the filament choice issues… But there’s still the problem of FFF layer striations being a perfect host for bacteria, and the issue of trace lead from free-machining brass nozzles. (This comes up all the time…there is clearly a serious market for food-safe 3D print coatings, especially if they also act as a self-leveling filler.)

    I think the real solution lies in what some other commenters have said; vape or e-cig mouthpieces… Shouldn’t be hard to source…at least judging by the fact I practically can’t shop anywhere on the internet without seeing vaping/e-cig paraphernalia…lol

  5. really wish I had somebody to do this project for me.I’m a quadriplegic would love to have sip and puff to use with my laptop wouldn’t need the joystick. It’s so expensive to buy sip and puff switch, but this price I certainly can afford

    1. Jermaine: I’m the creator of this project, and I’d love to make one for you. We can work out a price for my labor, but if you’re willing to wait for several months, we can lower the materials cost by ordering parts from China. Seeing as it’s already developed, it shouldn’t take me more than a few hours to build.

      If you’re concerned about bacteria and/or don’t have a way to run the mouthpieces through a dishwasher, I can look into what a few other commenters have suggested – Using an vaping mouthpiece instead. Since I’d be spending time on it, it may cost a little more- But like I said, we’ll work it out.

      Let me know what you think! I can give you my contact details, or you can contact me through instructables or my blog.

      – Jacob

      1. Hi Jacob,
        I am doing an article for New Mobility magazine, a nation wide magazine for wheelchair users. I saw the very cool sip n’ puf controller you made–I want to write about it, and you in an article I’m doing about how the 3D printing revolution is lowering prices and enabling very cool, affordable aids for daily living (ADL’s) for wheelchair users. I would like to do a brief phone interview, and if possible, would like to be able to contact a person who is using the device you created. Please contact me at rhvshark@mac.com or (916)768-4802 (pacific time)

    2. Hey Jermaine!

      I’m the guy who made the project, and I’d be happy to make one for you. My time will be a factor in the cost, but if you’re willing to wait a few months we can bring the parts cost down to under $30 by buying parts from China. Also, if you’re worried about sanity, the mouthpieces can be run through a dishwasher- But if that’s not enough, I’m definitely willing to look into adapting it for a vape mouthpiece like several others have suggested.

      Let me know if you’re interested! You can reply here, on my instructable (which should be linked in the article), or at my blog: http://invendiscovry.blogspot.com
      If you are, I’ll also give you my personal gmail for easier communication.

      Best wishes!
      – Jacob

  6. Hey Everyone! I’m honored to see my very own project deemed worthwhile enough to have an article about it on Hackaday!

    I’d like to address a few concerns: Yes, PLA normally isn’t cleanable in a dishwasher or other hot water sterilizing methods. However, we did anneal the PLA, which (and I tested this) gives it better heat resistance, and makes it more than able to withstand boiling water and normal dishwasher temperatures. For they guy we made it for, we planned to make him several mouthpieces, and then be sure to instruct the nurses to switch them out at least twice (ideally 3 or 4 times) a week, and wash the used ones in a dishwasher.

    Like more of you said, it is basically a nasty bacteria farm. I looked into coating it with epoxy, but couldn’t find a suitable epoxy within the timeframe of the project. What several of you have suggested (using a vape mouthpiece) is a great idea, and I’ll keep it in mind if I make more or decide to make it into a product.

    Happy making!
    – Jacob

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