When Dr. Tarek Loubani travelled to Gaza to work as an ER physician, he found that stethoscopes were in short supply. Sometime later, he noticed that a toy stethoscope worked surprisingly well. This prompted him and a team from Canada's Western University to design a plastic stethoscope that can be made anywhere, using a 3D printer.
Known as the Glia model, the stethoscope consists of just a few parts printed out of ABS plastic, along with inexpensive rubber tubing that is widely used in Coca Cola machines. It can be printed in three hours, and costs just three dollars to make – of course, access to a 3D printing is required.
Upon being clinically tested, it was found that 3D-printed stethoscope has the same acoustic quality as premium brand models.
The team utilized free open-source software for the design, in the hope that doctors from war-torn and low-income regions throughout the world will easily be able to access it, and print stethoscopes for themselves.
"Stethoscope utility goes up as other resources go down," says Loubani. "In London [Ontario], if someone gets shot, I can use an ultrasound to look inside and see if there is a life-threatening air pocket called a pneumothorax. In Gaza, ultrasounds are not available in emergency departments, or are dilapidated, so the stethoscope becomes an inexpensive tool that allows us to make life-saving decisions."
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