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Tuesday, Feb 01, 2011
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Old car parts bring to life hospital incubators


K.V. Kurmanath

Recently in San Antonio (Texas)

Mr Timothy Prestero, Chief Executive officer of Design That Matters, a Cambridge (US)-based IT technologies company, has found that about 10 lakh new-borns die immediately every year from lack of necessary body weight and metabolic activity to support their existence.

He has also learnt that most hospitals in poor countries do not have an incubator — to rescue such babies — to give them the cosy comfort of the mother's womb to survive. Even if they get one as a donation, they end up in the dumps as they do not find spare parts.

Driven by the common refrain that one can find coke, cigarettes and car parts in any corner of the world, they told themselves why not make an incubator made of car parts. You can not only bring down the cost of an incubator but also address the problem of finding spare parts and mechanics!

“They have used car headlights for heating, dashboard fan for air circulation, signal lights and door chime as safety alarms and motorcycle battery and car cigarette lighter as power backup units,” said Mr Jeff Ray — who has just stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of SolidWorks, the 3D design (CAD or computer-aided drafting) solution company — at the annual SolidWorks World 2011 held here.

Project Firefly

“Firefly is a similar project that we are working with East Meets West Foundation. We found that two-thirds of all newborns are afflicted with jaundice within the first 48 hours of life. If left untreated, the disease could leave children with serious neurological disorders,” Mr Will Harris, one of the three-member team of Design That Matters, told Business Line.

A few bouts of exposure to phototherapy would help get rid of the problem. But majority of children, particularly those in countries like India, could not afford to go for phototherapy sessions as they are expensive.

The Cambridge company has also taken up Project Firefly, and developed a prototype of phototherapy unit using 3D design capabilities which is ‘significantly' cheaper than those available in the market.

Mr Ray, who is now Executive Vice-President (Geographic Operations) at Dassault Systems (which acquired Solid Works), said the spine-chilling 69-day rescue operation in Chile to save miners also involved use of 3D CAD design that helped the drilling company Center Rock to quickly design and make special rigs in a short span of time.

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