What do a Mars colony and a refugee camp have in common? Both are situated in low-resource settings, and both are bound to experience unforeseen medical emergencies where it would be logistically challenging to deliver life-saving tools in time. With the right design files, 3D printing has the potential to manufacture the solution on site in such cases.
This is the vision behind the latest collaboration between Stratasys Medical Solutions Group, 3D4MD and GrabCAD. The “Oxygen Valve Splitter Challenge,” running through January 7, 2016, seeks to create an oxygen splitter that allows for independently controlled oxygen flow rates (in liters per minute) for two patients sharing one oxygen tank. This potentially life-saving device will help conserve oxygen, a precious resource in low-resource settings. The winning designs of the Oxygen Valve Splitter Challenge need to be 3D printable with ABS on a desktop FDM machine, and they will be available for unlimited humanitarian usage with the aim of supporting those who work in the worst conditions around the globe to save lives.
Paulina Perepelkin, Challenge Manager for GrabCAD, explains, “For everyone in the room it was important to develop a Challenge that would solve a real world problem using widely available materials. The Oxygen Valve Splitter provides a solution to a common problem and can be produced virtually anywhere with a basic 3D printer.”
The Challenge has attracted a lineup of impressive judges from a wide range of organizations including Hawaii space exploration analog and simulation (Hi-SEAS IV) mission, International Committee of the Red Cross, Refugee Open Ware and 3D Printing House. With a prize pool of $3,400 USD, as well as GrabCAD and 3D4MD swag for the top 10 winning designs, the Challenge has already inspired more than 50 clever entries.
Designing the Oxygen Valve Splitter is not an easy task by any means, but that’s exactly why the GrabCAD Community is eager to take it on. As member Don B shared in the Challenge comments: “I can only imagine that out in the field they will be carrying tanks that are mounted on the back of a truck. Just try and imagine in your mind what kind of hurdles the crew would encounter. Imagine all the negative roadblocks that would stop them from saving a life. And while you are at it, go ahead and imagine the smile of a new mother holding her newborn baby and being helped by the crew you designed stuff for…. blessings.”
The Challenge Sponsors
Stratasys Medical Solution Group
Stratasys Medical Solutions Group, launched in November of 2015, is building solutions that accelerate innovation, improve medical care, and facilitate the adoption of new medical technology. Stratasys 3D printing solutions include pre-surgical planning to improve patient outcomes, creating training and education anatomical models, and real-patient image-derived models for device testing to improve research and development. Stratasys Medical Solutions Group approached the GrabCAD Community team (also in the Stratasys family!) to explore hosting a design challenge around new applications of 3D printing in the medical field.
GrabCAD is best known as the largest online community of product development professionals in the world (with 2.6 million members and counting). GrabCAD Challenges gives companies a platform to crowdsource solutions to their design and mechanical engineering problems. Members enjoy participating in Challenges because they can flex their professional muscles, win cool prizes, and in some cases, contribute to a humanitarian cause.
3D4MD makes 3D printable medical supplies to deliver healthcare in the most challenging places to those who need it the most. Dr. Julielynn Wong, the founder of 3D4MD, envisions a future where life-saving medical tools can be created anywhere as they are required. Last year, Dr. Wong brought her 3D Printer with her to manufacture medical supplies at the Mars Desert Research Station – and successfully illustrated that 3D printing useful medical equipment in harsh, low-resource environments is possible.
When the teams from GrabCAD, Stratasys Medical and 3D4MD brainstormed Challenge ideas together they were on the same page: create something that helps people while solving an existing problem with new technology.