Jul 19, 2017 | By Tess

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have created a 3D printed device that is worn on the ear and which can measure the user’s core body temperature with infrared sensors. The small “earable” gadget can provide real-time detection of core body temperature changes, enabling users to keep track of their physical state more closely.

Most existing wearable temperature sensors measure a person’s temperature based on their skin. Unlike your core body temperature, this information is less useful in determining what your body is feeling or going through. As the researchers explain it, core body temperature “is one of the most important basic medical indicators of fever, insomnia, fatigue, metabolic functionality, and depression.”

With their new 3D printed “earable” device, the UBC Berkeley researchers say they can more accurately measure a person’s core body temperature, by using infrared sensors to track the temperature of the tympanic membrane (also known as the ear drum).

The wearable device integrates both data processing circuits and a wireless module, which give it “standalone functionality.” Moreover, the research team says its 3D printed device can be worn in almost any environment and for any type of activity.

The small device, which fits over the wearer’s ear, also incorporates a microphone and actuator which allow the earable to double as a “bone conduction hearing aid.” In other words, the wearer can still hear sounds from his or her environment while wearing the device.

Finally, a Bluetooth module lets core temperature data be sent directly and wirelessly to a custom smartphone app that the user or a medical professional can track.

A 3D printing technique involving liquid metal (Galinstan) microchannels enabled the creation of the personalized device. The first step in the process was to 3D print a base substrate that fitted the user’s ear using a flexible polyurethane filament. This substrate was designed to incorporate microchannels for the liquid metal interconnects.

Once the substrate was printed, the Galinstan liquid metal could be injected into the microchannels, and the other components of the device could be inserted into the microchannel slots.

“Using 3D printing as the fabrication method enables the device to be customized for the wearer for more personalized healthcare," the researchers explain. "This smart device provides an important advance in realizing personalized health care by enabling real-time monitoring of one of the most important medical parameters, core body temperature, employed in preliminary medical screening tests."

The study, entitled “3D Printed ‘Earable’ Smart Devices for Real-Time Detection of Core Body Temperature,” was recently published in the journal ACS Sensors.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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