In3 - A low cost incubator


In3 is a low-cost incubator developed during FabAcademy 2015.

It is the first prototype of a low cost incubator that aims to be cheap, easy to use and easily repairable device.

This device was designed to solve three big problems:
- The incubator should be cheap and easy to use, so developing countries hospitals could get enough incubators.
- Easy repairability is a must. This hospitals and maternities receive donations, but once those break they do not have enough resources to fix the high tech incubators. Those machines also need an expensive training.
- Modularity: it can be personalized adding or removing modules as desired. Currently there are three optional modules: temperature controller, bluetooth module and the control panel. Selecting at least one of the last two modules is recommended.

In order to make it easy to reproduce I focused on using materials and techniques available on any FabLab around the world. There are more than 500 laboratories around the world that have the necessary materials and technology to reproduce and fix an incubator like this. Also artisans all around the world can take the sources and make, at least, the structure. This would help local employment to grow while saving lives.


In3 is a very ambitious project.

Nowadays, developing countries are facing health problems that developed countries have already solved years ago. One of those is the newborn death ratio. Most countries are fighting successfully against this problem but, unfortunately, a lot of work must be done.

Developed countries treat preterm or underweight newborn babies using high technology devices such as incubators. These devices are very expensive, they cost between $ 6,000 to $ 60,000.

Underdeveloped countries hospitals cannot afford buying all the incubators they need. Despite many companies and hospitals donate materials (used and new) to the needed ones, their benefit might not be the expected.

Firstly, medical personnel must be trained to manage high technology incubators. The newest incubators have a very accurate temperature and humidity control system. They are also smart and can send information to the surrounding computers. Training medical personnel to deal with this device can cost up to $ 4,000 per person.

Developing countries hospitals environmental conditions may be harsh. For example, the temperature inside some buildings is very high or not regular (the same day can variate up to 10 Celsius degrees), there is sand or dust in the environment, etc. These factors can reduce the device life expectancy.

Once something breaks, it must be fixed. In developed countries this problem is usually solved by hospital technicians or call the support company. Unfortunately, small budget hospitals don't always have enough resources to buy the needed pieces or to hire people capable of fixing the device. Not to mention hiring the official device technical service.

Also, developing countries, have to deal with developed countries eradicated diseases and with patients that have to be isolated to avoid contagious diseases from spreading to other people. One example is the Ebola in Sierra Leona.

The lack of resources forces medical institutions to decide, for example, wether to focus on dealing against contagious diseases or decreasing the newborn death ratio. Unfortunately, most times the efforts are focused on dealing against contagious diseases. Therefore many infant deaths, that could be easily avoided in developed countries, are not avoided. This situation is caused by the lack of resources and most incubator devices high price.

To solve that problem, many hospitals and maternities are sharing incubators between more than one infant simultaneously. Two, three or even four newborns can be found inside the same device. Sharing an incubator can be dangerous, thus they are not isolated. If one of those contracts a contagious disease, probably, all of them will do it too.

Additionally, in some developing countries, young pregnant women have food deficit caused by the country poverty. This situation worsens the infant situation. Even if the newborn is not preterm, he can be underdeveloped. Therefore, the number of infants that needs an incubator increases.

The need of a low cost and easily repairable incubator for developing countries is urgent. This thought can be extrapolated to many other medical devices.

In3 has one goal. Solve the problem described above with a cheap, modular, robust and easy to fix design.


Is it ready to be used with babies?
Almost, I am currently working on a second iteration to improve the temperature management.

How much does it cost?*
< $ 300

Which are its mean features?
It allows the medical staff to tilt the bed up to 15º, can heat up the environment 6 Celsius Degrees, measures the environmental humidity and can be managed using a control panel or an Android device through its bluetooth module.

Will it be used with real babies?
Yes, it will be sent to a maternity in Benin this fall (September 15th)

Which features are still under development?
I am improving the structure stability and better isolating the heater/cooler module. Some air conducts are being designed to improve the environmental control.

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