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3D Printing Spare Parts for Vital Medical Equipment in the Field


Field Ready has worked in Nepal with Trishuli District Hospital to fix and maintain vital medical equipment using 3D printed parts. The hospital was badly affected by the earthquake, and with many of its buildings destroyed, it has been running services from tents. Harsh conditions and lack of technical staff mean that medical equipment often breaks down.

There are particular challenges around mending damaged equipment; much of the equipment is donated by aid agencies and imported from overseas, so when a component breaks, it is exceptionally difficult to locate or economically obtain a spare part.

Field Ready visited the hospital with a set of Vernier calipers and a 3D printer to see how we could help – here are some of our top items:

Dental Chair

Frustratingly, the dental chair provided to the hospital, after its original was destroyed, never worked. Transporting it across Nepal’s challenging mountain roads destroyed the mechanism which allows the chair to be lowered. The mechanism was so damaged, a direct replacement part could not be fitted, so Field Ready designed a custom part to enable the chair to be lowered.

IEC 309 Connector

One of the most important pieces when running a hospital from a tent is the power supply. Typically, an industrial cable is run from a generator to an electrical unit inside the tent, into which other equipment can be connected. However, the plastic connector on this unit had become brittle and broken, leaving the tent without power. The hospital could not afford to import the replacement part, and was looking at scaling back operations such that could be managed without power. Field Ready was able to iterate a few prototype replacements for the part before manufacturing and installing a functional replacement.

ECG Clamps

ECG machines are a vital, basic piece of hospital equipment used to monitor a patient’s heartbeat. Plastic clamps are used to hold the sensors to the patient’s wrists and ankles, but the staff at Trishuli were struggling to use their ECG machines. The plastic ‘spring’ holding the clamps closed were not well designed, and came loose easily, ruining the connection between the sensor and the patient. Field Ready designed some better fitting ‘springs’ and fixed the clamps for use as the doctors required.

Otoscope Speculas

A simple, everyday frustration of the pediatric staff at the hospital was the lack of pediatric otoscope speculas available in Nepal. Otoscopes are used to diagnose ear problems, and the specula needs to be the right size for the patient’s ear. The pediatric doctor jumped at the opportunity to get some speculas Field Ready made to his specification using a 3D printer in the hospital.

#DisasterResponse #Resilience #Supplychain #Technology #3Dprinting #Nepal #Health

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Field Ready is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. We aim to meet humanitarian need by transforming logistics through technology, innovative design and engaging people in new ways. We do this by working with a variety of partners and helping to build people's resilience. We are a charity registered in a number of countries. In the US, as a 501c3, gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations.   

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