Earlier this year, a team of researchers from FabLab Pisa and the University of Pisa’s Center for Bioengineering and Robotics kicked off an exciting new project known as OS4BME, or Open Source for Biomedical Engineering.
The project’s goal? Introducing the medical device world to a DIY & Makers philosophy. Indeed, OS4BME wants to help facilitate the development of simple, low-cost and high-impact biomedical devices such as neonatal baby monitors.
The course took take place at Kenyatta University (Nairobi) and involved a number of staggered tracks, including configuring a 3D printing system, developing a neonatal monitoring device, using open source and designing solar-powered electronics based on the Atmel-powered Arduino platform.
In July, Arduino announced its official support for the project, sending the research team a number of UNO boards (ATmega328), along with Wi-Fi and GSM shields used during the course. The components were subsequently donated to the Kenyatta University and Fablab Nairobi.
Arti Ahluwalia (Professor of Bioengineering), Daniele Mazzei and Carmelo De Maria (Biomedical Engineers, co-founders of FabLab Pisa and researchers at the Center) have since returned to Italy where they were recently interviewed by Arduino’s Zoe Romano.
“We decided to use open source tools to design and prototype the baby monitor because we believe economic barriers can’t stop the creative process. Our results will be the starting point for future projects, following the open source philosophy,” the FabLab Pisa team told Romano.
“[Our] baby monitor [was] composed by a 3D-printed mechanical frame, an electronic board and a control software. Thus, in order, we used FreeCAD for mechanical design, MeshLab to analyze the quality of the mesh, Slic3r to generate the machine code, Pronterface to send commands to a Prusa Mendel RepRap. The brain of the baby monitor, electronic and software, is based on Arduino. ”
According to FabLab Pisa, the project was an “immediate” success, if even most students and staff were initially unaware of the existence of tools such as Arduino, FreeCad, Slicer and Media Wiki.
“The course was instrumental in bringing this knowledge to the participants, and their keen interest throughout the introductory part, particularly on 3D printing and rapid prototyping was apparent,” the FabLab team added. “[Currently], the University of Pisa is working with the ABEC and Boston University to raise funds for further courses and student and staff exchange.”