Researchers from US and South Korean universities have used 3D=printing technology to create a smartphone case which can help detect blood pressure.
The innovation could help treat diseases especially in developing countries, where smartphone adoption is on the rise and access to traditional arm-cuff blood pressure devices is limited.
According to a report on 3D Print.com, users need to place their finger on a pressure sensor on the modified smartphone case. Through a visual graph, an app guides the user about how much pressure to exert on the thumb. A separate sensor illuminates the finger and detects any changes in how the light is absorbed.
The data from the sensors is then sent to the companion app which analyses the information before providing a blood pressure reading.
The collaborative research team from Michigan State University and University of Maryland in the US and Chonnam National University in South Korea tested out their 3D-printed prototype smartphone case on 30 people.
They said that the majority quickly learned how to use the case. It took 90% of the participants less than three attempts to correctly position their finger on the sensor and get consistent readings.
However, early results from the trials showed inconsistencies in readings. The researchers believe that the results can be made more accurate over time as more and more data is collected over multiple readings.
There is growing interest in 3D printing of medical devices.
A new study by market research and investment information firm Profshare Market Research has said that the global market for 3D printing of medical devices is estimated to touch $2.77 billion by 2017. This would translate to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.8% between 2017 and 2025.
"No additional setup of equipment or tools is required as 3D printing allows designers to make changes easily," Profshare said in a statement. "The flexibility of 3D printing devices allows manufacturers to create devices matched to a patient’s anatomy (patient-specific devices) or even devices with very complex internal structures."
Scientists are researching how to manufacture organs such as a heart or liver using the 3D-printing process.