There are certainly much more complex and terrifying medical procedures beyond giving blood or receiving an injection—or even just getting an IV—but if you or someone you know is afraid of needles, then you’re well aware that’s certainly no consolation. It’s also often not a lot of fun for the medical professional who is trying to insert a needle and playing ‘let’s hope we can find a vein soon.’ One could possibly go so far as to say that this anxiety sometimes reaches beyond just patient and nurse, as well, stressing out the whole family.
One tech-savvy boyfriend out there, however, decided to put his talents as a military automotive engineer to work in a different department as he listened to his girlfriend share her day and recount the challenges involved in trying to take blood from patients at work, with many of those she had to work with being children. Being rather new to nursing, this was challenging in the day-long venture of trying to find veins. Alex Stanciu, being passionate about CAD design and 3D printing, figured he could come up with a simple, affordable design that would streamline his girlfriend’s work—and make him a hero all around to boot.
His design, which took several months to perfect, seems to be a winner indeed (especially if you check out comments from the Reddit page where he posted both his video, which you can see below, and specifics on his design). The 3D printed device is battery operated, and has a simple switch to turn it on and off. Once on, the 11 LED lights situated around the top light up and once the apparatus is placed on the arm or wrist with the LEDs face-down against the skin, the user can begin seeking veins by simply moving the finder around sideways or in a circular motion. Once you’ve found a vein, the needle is inserted into the small area where the vein finder has a gap.
“That way you won’t miss the vein…not even your first time,” says Stanciu.
“It’s intended use is to be used for patients who have deep veins or children where you can’t afford to miss the vein the first time, because the second time the child won’t be so enthusiastic about it.”
Stanciu made the device to be affordable, first and foremost, as he and his girlfriend live outside of the US, where something like this would normally cost around 150£ (translated to over $215 USD). He estimates costs for his version at around $25.
“…I designed a whole series of them in the attempt to make it more patient-friendly, and I finally succeeded,” said Stanciu. “I made it also in a way not to warp with PLA, using blue tape and rubbing alcohol, and [the] heat bed not active because I assumed it would be printed in areas that are poor and a printer with [a] heated bed would be more expensive.”
“Also this can be used in various countries around the world where they don’t have medical equipment or money to buy it, or professional staff is scarce . Now with the Zika virus and all… it’s a helping hand.”
The project requires the following materials, all outlined in Stanciu’s Instructable:
- Dark filament for your 3D printer (Stanciu recommends purple)
- Soldering iron and lead
- On – off switch
- One M3 bolt (5-8 mm is sufficient)
- One M3 metal threaded insert
- Battery contacts for 2 AA batteries
- Two AA batteries
- One medical needle from a syringe
- Nail cutter
- 10 cm of shrinking tube
- 15 resistors at 51ohm ( should be ok between 45 and 75)
- About 15 red LEDs wavelength above 620 nm (11 will be used in the design, and it’s best to have extras handy). Make sure they are not higher than 680nm because you won’t be able to see the light at all–and between 4000 and 6000mcd, Stanciu says you ‘will go temporarily blind.’
You can expect the project to print in under five hours or so. Stanciu recommends PLA, printing at .25mm height for speed. He does mention that if you want it to look much more perfect, print at .1mm and it will look like it ‘came out of the factory.’ He used Catia for designing the device, and notes that if you don’t have a 3D printer, you can just as easily send this design over to Shapeways for fabrication.
While the 3D printing is in progress, you can trim and position the LEDs, making sure they are positioned so they don’t move around. Stanciu recommends, for all LEDs used, using the Dremel and a sanding tip to trim them, taking the initial 5.52 diameter down to 4.81mm. After this, you’ll want to check out Stanciu’s extensive directions and tips for soldering.
Once you’ve finished with soldering the LEDs, it’s time to add batteries and close down their cover with the M3 bolt.
Stanciu is very open to feedback on the design and invites you to email him at [email protected] with any questions or suggestions. He stresses that he posts this online for free so that anyone who wants one can make one, stating that to sell them en masse would require federal approval, which is complicated to get.
“It’s sort of a way to show the finger at the government, greedy companies, and so on and post them free,” says Stanciu on Reddit.
Do you think it’s a good idea for nurses to 3D print these for themselves? Discuss in the 3D Printed Vein Finder forum over at 3DPB.com.
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