A self-sufficient medical device that enables asthma patients to manage their condition
The object of this project was to design an electric anemometer (a device for measuring wind speeds) for the brand Hitachi. The anemometer has to be energy self-sufficient, meaning that electrical energy should be physically generated by the product itself.
Because I wanted to find an application of this design brief that would be useful, I decided to create a device for asthma patients designed to both measure and train lung capacity.
Phase One: Individual Work
In Phase One I designed a concept for the self-sufficient anemometer. This phase is characterized by market and target group research, sketching, shape development and erganomics, and a global understanding of the technical and electronic functioning of the product.
Chronic astma patients often use a device called a peak flow meter on a daily basis. This device is used to keep track of progress in order to discuss options with doctors, and in case of emergencies. Additionally it is known that breathing exercises (can improve a patient’s condition. Combining these two functions in an innovative product is an excellent market opportunity for Hitachi, who already has experience in both medical products and personal electronics.
When used as a trainer, the device harvests energy from the breathing exercises completed by the patient. When measuring peak flow, the device uses this energy.
Initial sketches used to define the overall shape of the product. I divided the shape into two sections: a green section and a white section. The white side is the side for measuring, the green side for generating energy. This creates a meaningful interaction between the user and the product.
The general layout of the first iteration, in which it was possible to breathe into both sides.
The relationship between the electric components: the generator feeds either the battery (when in generating mode) or goes directly to the processor, where it is interpreted as a measurement. This is controlled with a switch.
Left: strength analysis of the outer case in Solidworks. Middle: injection-moulding simulation of the case made of PBT done in Solidworks. Right: several 3D printed models of the product to test for ergonomics
Phase Two: Group work
Our group chose to continue to develop the Hitachi Breathing Manager in the second phase of the project. This phase is characterized by optimizing the ergonomics, technical and electric functioning, producability, cost, and user experience of the product. In the second phase, my primary role was in further defining the shape language and user experience of the product. Forthermore, I modelled a large part of the components in Solidworks and was responsible for making the product images and renders.
The user blows into the device and then reads the peak flow measurement. The white body is made from PBT. The green area is a thermoplastic elastomer injection moulded on top of the PBT body in a 2K injection moulding process. This area is comfortable to hold, and signals the user how to use the product.
An exploded view reveals the components on the inside. The custom components are all injection-molded PBT (because of it’s sanitary properties it is often used for medical applications). Electrical components such as the generator and battery are standard. The mouthpiece is also a standard component, and it is possible to remove and replace it. It is also possible to wash the product by hand.
Through this project I learned how to integrate all elements of design, such as user and market research, ergonomics, aesthetics, production, and technical detailing.