3D Printing

Asthma Patients Breathe Easier with 3D Printed ‘Sneezeometer’

According to the England-based University of Surrey, about one-twelfth of the UK population is currently receiving asthma treatment. These inconvenient respiratory conditions, like asthma, are growing at an alarming rate in developing cities such as Delhi and Beijing, both of which have seen a massive rise in air pollution. In order to help the world diagnose and treat respiratory diseases, researchers from the University of Surrey have developed the ‘Sneezeometer’, a 3D printed airflow sensor (aka spirometer) that is sensitive enough to measure the speed of a sneeze.

The Sneezeometer will help diagnose a number of different respiratory conditions twice as fast as any other similar device. The Surrey research team’s Sneezeometer device measures the patient’s rate of airflow, picking up on small nuances or fluctuations in breathing that may be related to certain respiratory diseases. The tool is a simple, affordable, and non-intrusive alternative to current systems, and is equipped with advanced fluid sensor technologies that offer a highly sensitive and time-efficient diagnosis. The research team developed the functional prototype in just three weeks time, as they used 3D printing technology to surround the Sneezometer’s electronic components.

“We have created a portable, highly sensitive and accurate spirometer that can catch the speed of a sneeze,” said Dr. Paul Nathan, the co-creator of the Sneezeometer. “What’s almost as impressive is that we created this innovative device using simple 3D printing technology, with all of the prototypes ‘printed’ around the internal electronics.”

Dr. Birch with the Sneezeometer device

Led by Dr David Birch, a member the University of Surrey’s Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow research group, the team is aiming to reduce respiratory diseases by making them easier to diagnose. The Sneezeometer is currently being tested in trials at the King’s College Hospital in London, where it will hopefully help to diagnose a wide-range of respiratory-related conditions. The Surrey-based team believes that the Sneezeometer could be ready for clinical services as soon as 2018. Thanks to the functional and affordable nature of 3D printing technology, the research team was able to produce the innovative Sneezeometer device quickly, and can now look towards accurately diagnosing and battling these wide-spread respiratory illnesses with the power of a sneeze.

“From our expertise in wind-tunnel measurement we have translated fundamental research into an incredibly beneficial technology that will have real impact on the lives of patients with chronic illnesses and will make diagnosis faster, cheaper and more accurate,” said Dr. Birch.