Sep 5, 2017 | By Tess

A team of innovative and resourceful doctors in Gaza are using 3D printers to produce simple medical supplies, such as stethoscopes and tourniquets, which are not easily accessible and are in high demand in the war-torn region.

In Gaza, a Palestinian territory that has long been closed off from supplies due to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, essential items such as medical tools are hard to come by. Even the region’s largest hospital, al-Shifa, only has one or two stethoscopes per department, and most equipment—like CT and MRI scanners—are old fashioned and out of date.

Facing the difficulties of not having necessary medical equipment to properly diagnose patients, Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani and some of his coworkers formed the “Glia team” and set out to find a solution. As he explains, prior to making the 3D printed stethoscopes, it would not be uncommon for doctors to read a heart rate by putting their own ears up to the patient’s chest.

“That would be the best-case scenario,” Loubani explained to Al Jazeera. "If someone's full of blood, most doctors aren't going to put their ears to the chest. So, doctors are making decisions without that piece of information.”

Of course, deciding to 3D print stethoscopes was not quite as easy as finding a model and sending it to an out-of-the-box 3D printer, as 3D printers are banned in Gaza. To get around this restriction, Loubani and his team worked with Mohammed Abu Matar, a telecommunications graduate and the founder of Gaza’s first and only 3D printing shop.

Unable to simply buy a 3D printer, Matar had to create his own using open source design files and any spare parts he could find. When he had one printer up and running, he used it to 3D print parts for more printers. The Glia team even had to create its own filament by grinding up plastic into pellets and developing its own filament-making machine.

The 3D printed stethoscopes, which cost only about $3 to make (compared to the $200 price tag attached to most industry-leading stethoscopes), reportedly work just as well their branded counterparts. Considering that doctors in Gaza only make about $300 a month, the $3 stethoscope seems much more feasible to obtain.

Mohammed Abu Matar demonstrates the 3D printed stethoscope

Currently, Matar’s 3D printers are being used to produce low-cost but fully functional stethoscopes. In fact, Loubani’s team has already received its first batch of the medical devices which are ready to be deployed. Now, the team is working on developing and testing 3D printed tourniquets and pulse oximeters, which are also in high demand at Gaza hospitals.

Importantly, Loubani and his team are hoping to spread their 3D printing knowledge to other people in Gaza in the hopes that the technology will be used to produce more medical supplies. The Glia team has already been to the Khan Younis College of Science and Technology to teach students how to assemble a 3D printer, and they are hoping to introduce the technology to even younger students as well.

The Glia team: Shaker Shaheen, Mahmoud Alalawi, Tarek Loubani, Mohammed Abu Matar

(All Images: Mersiha Gadzo / Al Jazeera)

“You have a very special problem in Gaza; a rocket could come through this window and this place is gone. If that happens, what's supposed to happen with this work?" Loubani said. "So really, you need more than one place [that knows how to 3D print] in a place like Gaza, to know you can keep the culture going.”

Loubani added that he believes at least four or five 3D printing shops should be established in the region to ensure that the technology and knowledge surrounding it can survive.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Yusuf wrote at 9/7/2017 3:52:07 AM:

Totally agree with Hahmed. What's next? Gaza rulers will try to make rockets using 3d printing. A rocket though the window? Yes, but coming from the inside and going to Israel. Please, 3ders, avoid taking part in this conflict. You certainly don't know what's going on over there.

Hahmed, Hebron wrote at 9/5/2017 10:30:35 PM:

"that has long been closed off from supplies due to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, essential items such as medical tools are hard to come by." That is totally a lie! there is no shortage of medical equipment. HAMAS - a terror group who rules Gaza take all the medical equipment and supports and keep it for itself. Don't believe this propaganda. Use your mind.

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