You know that our society is experiencing exponential technological progress when we begin comparing certain new technologies to those found in the hit series Star Trek. 3D printing is already being called an early form of the replicator from the series, the device which is able to replicate almost any object on a whim. In fact MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis even named his desktop 3D printers after the Star Trek machine.
3D printers themselves are not the only Star Trek-like gadgets we are seeing. In fact, 3D printing is an enabler of a device which immediately brings to mind another gadget from the series, the medical tricorder. For those who are not fans of the series, the medical tricorder was a sophisticated devices which doctors would use to quickly and accurately diagnose their patients. Instead of relying on stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, blood tests, etc., the tricorder could record all of this information within seconds. Sound far fetched? Well, you may want to begin opening up your mind to the fact that such a device may one day be entirely possible.
Engineers at Johns Hopkins University, led by Dr. Gene Fridman, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, are working on a 3D printed device which is able to read key vital signs of a patient within seconds. The device utilizes a sensory thumb pad and mouthpiece to rapidly obtain information related to the patient’s blood pressure, blood oxygen level, heartbeat pattern, heart rate, body temperature and more. The thumb pad has a tiny pulse oximeter which measures the blood oxygen level, while the mouthpiece can measure a variety of other vital signs by utilizing sophisticated algorithms and multiple sensors.
The research has led to the formation of a company called Multisensor Diagnostics and the team is calling the device MouthLab. Although still in a prototype stage, many of its components have been 3D printed, saving the company time and money during the development process.
“We see it as a ‘check-engine’ light for humans. It can be used by people without special training at home or in the field,” explained Fridman. “It can gather more data than is typically collected during a medical assessment in an ambulance, emergency room, doctor’s office or patient’s home.”
The goal currently is to enable doctors and patients to measure their vitals within just 10 seconds by holding the device in front of them and breathing normally. The production version of the device will display the patient’s vitals on a screen built into the device itself while also sending the data to a laptop or into the cloud for monitoring.
“MouthLab will be able to make those with no medical training make more intelligent decisions about their own healthcare,” explained Fridman. “MouthLab will improve healthcare in the underdeveloped regions, it will reduce the number of emergency room visits and it will improve therapy outcomes by catching problems early on.”
While the tricorder was certainly a much more capable and sophisticated device, ultimately MouthLab may one day progress to a point, by utilizing new algorithms and sensors, to make that fictional device an eventual reality. What do you guys think? Let us know in the MouthLab 3D Printed Tricorder forum thread on 3DPB.com. Also be sure to check out the video below describing this device in more detail: