Dec 10, 2014

To be sure, it’s always great to come across cool 3D printing projects we can even do in our own homes. But what can be more inspiring – or a better calling card for the technology – than learning about how 3D printing is improving peoples’ lives? While we sometimes hear about rare medical cases being solved with 3D printed solutions, it’s even more heartwarming to read about people with common, chronic medical conditions who benefiting from the maker’s community.

That’s why we’re happy to report on one special case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where 3D printing technology is helping a ten-year-old girl to be a happy child again. Riley has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a few years ago. Of course, this isn’t suffering from a life-altering or severely debilitating illness, but it does require a continuous blood glucose monitoring system (also known as a CGM) that can continuously measure the sugar levels in her blood. This is a little devise ‘plugged into’ your bloodstream and can be attached to your arm or stomach. If these levels go up to high or down too low without being treated, Riley could fall unconscious and even eventually die. Over time, badly managed diabetes can also result in a number of organ and limb complications.

You can imagine how hard that must be on her parents, who can’t always be around to check up on her. That’s why her father, Doug Shover, went online to look for a remote monitoring system for Diabetes patients. Eventually, he came across the Nightscout project, an open-source, DIY project that allows users to track a CGM system in the cloud; a real-time connection that can be accessed via smartphones, computers and tablets.

In a nutshell, the Nightscout is integrated into the cloud by attaching a device to someone’s CGM that can always connect to the web. This will allow parents and diabetics themselves to easily check and monitor blood sugar levels and can be warned if anything goes wrong.

While looking into various options to practically use this system, Dough came across a 3D printed custom holder that can hold a smartphone, the receiver and enough wiring to connect the two. You can make it yourself using these Thingiverse steps, though it will require quite a bit of customization to suit your specific smartphone.

A 3D printed Nightscout device using the Thingiverse tutorial.

While this might be a great system for us 3D printing geeks, we mustn’t forget that these skills and knowledge aren’t universal yet. Fortunately for Riley and her parents, father Doug was working as a project manager at an architect firm in Knoxville, where one contractor one day showed up with a 3D printed model.

He quickly obtained the information of the company who produced it: ModernTech, a Tennessee-based provider of 3D printing and development services. These proved to be very willing to help Doug and his daughter by developing a custom-made Nightscout holder in (importantly) the color of her choosing. Generously, they even designed and built it for free to support a medical cause that afflicts millions and to show how 3D printing can be used to improve everyday situations. This device would otherwise cost you about $400 to be custom made for you.

Riley and her parents were reportedly very pleased with the results. Her parents have said that Riley herself is pleased beyond words, and themselves added that ‘The rig was invaluable in our situation and has provided Riley with a better quality of life. My wife and I now have a peace of mind that we have not had since her diagnosis.’

This innovative way to monitor a Diabetic’s health truly captures precisely what 3D printing is all about. While this open-source project might not cure a rare medical case, why shouldn’t we use 3D printing to improve the lives of the more than 350 million people suffering from this chronic condition? Parents and diabetics looking for a similar Nightscout device should definitely check out the site here, and anyone in the Tennessee area can always contact ModernTech to learn more about developing a specific case for their CGM.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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