Operating under the idea that a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine isn’t very far removed electrically or mechanically from a proper ventilator, [Trammell Hudson] has performed some fascinating research into how these widely available machines could be used as life support devices in an emergency situation. While the documentation makes it clear the project is a proof of concept and is absolutely not intended for human use in its current state, the findings so far are certainly very promising.
For the purposes of this research, [Trammell] has focused on the Airsense S10 which currently retails for around $600 USD. Normally the machine is used to treat sleep apnea and other disorders by providing a constant pressure on the lungs, but as this project shows, it’s also possible for the S10 to function in what’s known as Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) mode. Essentially this means that the machine detects when the user is attempting to inhale, and increases the air pressure to support their natural breathing.
Critically, this change is made entirely through modifications to the S10 firmware. No additional hardware is required, and outside of opening up the device to attach an STM32 programmer (a process which [Trammell] has carefully documented), there’s nothing mechanically that needs to be done to the machine for it to operate in this breathing support function. It seems at least some of the functionality was already included via hidden diagnostic menus which can be enabled through a firmware patch.
As many of these CPAP machines feature cellular data connections for monitoring and over-the-air updates, [Trammell] believes it should be possible for manufacturers to push out a similarly modified firmware on supported devices. Of course, the FDA would have to approve of something like that before the machines could actually be used as emergency, non-invasive ventilators. They would also need to have viral filters installed and some facility for remote control added, but those would be relatively minor modifications.
Treating the most serious cases of COVID-19 calls for the use of ventilators. We’ve all heard this, and also that there is a shortage of these devices. But there is not one single type of ventilator, and that type of machine is not the only option when it comes to assisted breathing being used in treatment. Information is power and having better grasp on this topic will help us all better understand the situation.
We recently wrote about a Facebook group focused on open source ventilators and other technology that could assist in the COVID-19 pandemic. There was an outpouring of support, and while the community is great when it comes to building things, it’s clear we all need more information about the problems doctors are currently dealing with, and how existing equipment was designed to address them.
It’s a long and complicated topic, though, so go get what’s left of your quarantine snacks and let’s dig in.
Like everyone else, hackers and makers want to do something to help control the spread of COVID-19. The recent posts on Hackaday dealing with DIY and open source approaches to respirators, ventilators, and masks have been some of the most widely read and commented on in recent memory. But it’s important to remember that the majority of us aren’t medical professionals, and that even the most well-meaning efforts can end up making things worse if they aren’t done correctly.
Which is exactly what [Josef Průša] wanted to make clear about 3D printed medical equipment in his latest blog post. Like us, he’s thrilled to see all the energy the maker community is putting into brainstorming ways we can put our unique skills and capabilities to use during this global pandemic, but he also urged caution. Printing out an untested design in a material that was never intended for this sort of application could end up being more dangerous than doing nothing at all.
To say that he and his team are authorities in the realm of fused deposition modeling (FDM) would be something of an understatement. They know better than most what the technology is and is not capable of, and they’re of the opinion that using printed parts in respirators and other breathing devices isn’t viable until more research and testing is done
The safest option is to only use printed parts for structural components that don’t need to be sterile. To that end, [Josef] used the post to announce a newly published design of a printable face shield for medical professionals. Starting with an existing open source design, the Prusa Research team used their experience to optimize the headband for faster and easier printing. They can produce four headbands at once on each of the printers in their farm, which will allow them to make as many as 800 shields per day without impacting their normal business operations. The bottleneck on production is actually how quickly they can cut out the clear visors with their in-house laser, not the time it takes to print the frames.
The Glia project aims to create a suite of free and open-source medical equipment that can be assembled cheaply and easily when and where it’s needed. Even essential tools like stethoscopes and tourniquets can be difficult to acquire in certain parts of the world, especially during times of war or civil unrest. But armed with a 3D printer and the team’s open-source designs, an ad-hoc factory can start producing these lifesaving tools anywhere on the planet.
Glia member [Tarek Loubani] has recently written a blog post discussing the team’s latest release: an otoscope that can be built for as little as $5. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve almost certainly seen one of them in use. The otoscope is used to look inside the ear and can be invaluable in diagnosing illnesses, especially in children. Unfortunately, while this iconic piece of equipment is quite simple on a technical level, professional-quality versions can cost hundreds of dollars.
Now to be fair, you’ll need quite a bit more than just the 3D printed parts to assemble the device. The final product requires some electrical components such as a battery holder, rocker switch, and LED. It also requires a custom lens, though the Glia team has thought ahead here and provided the files for printable jigs that will allow you to cut a larger lens down to the size required by their otoscope. In a situation where you might have to improvise with what you have, that’s a very clever design element.
So far the team is very happy with how the otoscope performs, but they’ve run into a bit of a logistical snag. It turns out that early work on the project was done in the web-based TinkerCAD, which isn’t quite in line with the team’s goals of keeping everything free and open. They’d like some assistance in recreating the STLs in FreeCAD or OpenSCAD so they’re easier to modify down the road. So if you’re a FOSS CAD master and want to earn some positive karma, head over to the GitHub page for the project and put those skills to use.
If you’re the kind of person who’s serious about using open source software and hardware, relying on a medical device like a pacemaker or an insulin pump can be a particular insult. You wouldn’t trust the technology with your email, and yet you’re forced to put your life into the hands of a device you can’t examine yourself. Unfortunately we don’t (yet) have any news to report on open source pacemakers, but at least now there’s an open software and hardware hearing aid for those who need it.
The Tympan project aims to develop a fully open source hearing aid that you can not only build yourself, but expand and modify to fit your exact specifications. Ever wanted to write code for your hearing aid with the Arduino IDE? No problem. You want Bluetooth, I2C, and SPI? You got it. In truth we’re not sure what this kind of technology makes possible just yet, but the point is that now those who want to hack their hearing aids have a choice in the matter. We have no doubt the community will come up with incredible applications that we can’t even begin to imagine.
But these open hearing aids aren’t just hackable, they’re affordable. Traditional hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars, but you can buy the Tympan right now for $250. You don’t even need to check with your health insurance first. Such a huge reduction in price means there’s a market for these outside the hardware hacking crowd, and yet another example of how open source can put cutting edge technology into the hands of those who would otherwise have to go without.
The latest version of the Tympan hardware, revision D, is powered by the Teensy 3.6 and features a Sierra Wireless BC127 Bluetooth radio, dual MEMS microphones, and even a microSD slot for recording audio or logging data. It might be a bit bigger than the traditional hearing aids you’re used to seeing, but with an external microphone and headphone setup, the wearer could simply keep it in their pocket.
On the off chance that initiatives like the Hackaday Prize didn’t make it abundantly clear, we believe strongly that open designs can change the world. Putting technology into the hands of the people is a very powerful thing, and depending on where you are or your station in life, can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. So when we saw that not only had a team of researchers developed a 3D printable stethoscope, but released everything as open source on GitHub, it’s fair to say we were pretty interested.
The stethoscope has been in development for several years now, but has just recently completed a round of testing that clinically validated its performance against premium brand models. Not only does this 3D printed stethoscope work, it works well: tests showed its acoustic performance to be on par with the gold standard in medical stethoscopes, the Littmann Cardiology III. Not bad for something the researchers estimate can be manufactured for as little as $3 each.
All of the 3D printed parts were designed in OpenSCAD (in addition to a Ruby framework called CrystalSCAD), which means the design can be evaluated, modified, and compiled into STLs with completely free and open source tools. A huge advantage for underfunded institutions, and in many ways the benchmark by which other open source 3D-printable projects should be measured. As for the non-printed parts, there’s a complete Bill of Materials which even includes links to where you can purchase each item.
The documentation for the project is also exceptional. It not only breaks down exactly how to print and assemble the stethoscope, it even includes multi-lingual instructions which can be printed out and distributed with kits so they can be assembled in the field by those who need them most.
Engineering for medical, automotive, and aerospace is highly regulated. It’s not difficult to see why: lives are often at stake when devices in these fields fail. The cost of certifying and working within established regulations is not insignificant and this is likely the main reason we don’t see a lot of work on Open Hardware in these areas.
Ashwin K. Whitchurch wants to change this and see the introduction of simple but important Open Source medical devices for those who will benefit the most from them. His talk at the Hackaday Superconference explores the possible benefits of Open Medical devices and the challenges that need to be solved for success.