OS4BME Africa

Da FabLab Pisa Wiki.


Innovators Summer School 2013

12th -16th August, Kenyatta University, Nairobi

Open Source Design for BioMedical Engineering (OS4BME)

Arti Ahluwalia, Daniele Mazzei and Carmelo De Maria

The Problem: Healthcare in Africa

The scarcity of accessible quality healthcare in Africa is inextricably linked not only with the lack of resources, but also the lack of trained biomedical engineers. As a result, the medical device industry in Africa is largely absent and there is an over reliance on foreign companies to repair and design biomedical instrumentation and resolve technical problems. Tied with this, the mainstream academic engineering community in Africa remains largely ignorant of the potential or pitfalls of open source software, hardware and prototyping. More importantly, at present there are no specific engines or platforms focused on the sharing of biomedical instrumentation and devices. This is because, by their very nature, biomedical devices possess stringent performance requirements to comply with regulatory standards to ensure patient safety. Action A one week introductory course on open source design and rapid prototyping specifically for Biomedical Engineering will be held during the Innovator’s Summer School. The aim of the course is to introduce the open source concept to the African Engineering community and thus develop and nurture resource sharing and technological self-competency. Close attention will also be paid to safety and ergonomic aspects such that the devices meet with regulatory and performance standards for biomedical devices.


The course will be held by the University of Pisa’s Center for Bioengineering and Robotics and Fablab Pisa. It will involve setting up a 3D printing system, design of a neonatal monitoring device from first principles using open source electronics based on the Arduino platform. Participants will play an active role in the identification of components, design, assembling and testing of the device and in the discussion of regulatory issues in the development of the device.

Course outcome

Participants will gain hands on experience in open source DIY based on rapid prototyping, with particular focus on biomedical systems, their requisites, limitations and safety requirements. The design philosophy and information gained will be used to create a novel properly regulated sharing platform for biomedical design and project development and exploitation throughout Africa.


  • Lecturers
    • Prof. Arti Ahluwalia
    • Ing. Daniele Mazzei PhD
    • Ing Carmelo De Maria PhD
  • Tutors
    • Ing. Giorgio Mattei
    • Ing. Serena Giusti
    • Alejandro Callara


(Lecture typology: F= frontal lecture, E= experiments, P= project and design, B= brainstorming) (Lecturers: A.= Arti Ahluwalia, D.: Daniele Mazzei, C.: Carmelo De Maria)

  • Monday
    • 9-10 Welcome, introduction and course organization description (F; D., C., A.)
      • Do it yourself philosophy
      • Arduino and other prototyping board what they are and how to use them
      • 3D printer and RepRap projects
      • “DIY for Biomedical Engineering in Africa”
    • 10-11 Analysis of the course project problem: Design of a Baby Monitor (F. B.; D., C.)
      • Newborn neonatal death problem intro
      • What we can monitor and how
      • Which technology use, why and how
    • 14-15 Enabling technology: electronic prototyping systems (F.; D., C.)
      • Arduino
      • breakout boards
      • ready to use sensors
    • 15-17 Hands on Arduino and Sensors (E.; D., C.)
      • Programming and flashing Arduino
      • Plug and read sensors
      • Plug and use actuators
      • Plug and use LCD displays
  • Tuesday
    • 9-12 Enabling technology: 3D printing (F., P.; C.)
      • Open 3D printing and fabrication technology
      • The RepRap project
      • The Prusa Mendel kit
      • Draw and design for 3D printing
    • 12-13 Hands on 3D printing (E., P., D., C.)
      • 3D printer start-up
      • STL, Slicing, GCode
    • 14-15 Hands on 3D printing (E., P., D., C.)
      • Print of simple objects for calibration
      • Filling, extruder properties
    • 15-17 Hands on Arduino and 3D printer (E.; D., C.)
      • Arduino communication with PC
      • 3D printing of complex objects
      • 3D printing Arduino cases
  • Wednesday
    • 9-11 Regulatory issues for Biomedical devices (F.; A.)
      • Overview of medical device classification
      • ISO Standards
      • Specific case study of baby monitor
  • 11-13 The Baby Monitor Project start-up (F., B., P.; D., C., A.)
      • Introduction on design
      • Task identifications and planning
      • System integration architecture
      • Electronic, sensors, case and connections
    • 14-17 Hands on temperature and breath/movement measurement unit (E., P.; D., C.,)
      • Development of an Arduino shield
      • Temperature sensor integration
      • Piezo as movement/breath sensor
  • Thursday
    • 9-13 Hands on sound measurement and light/alarm unit (E., P.; D., C.,)
      • Development of an Arduino shield
      • Sound level measurement with electret microphones
      • Drive and control a RGB led
      • Drive and control a piezo buzzer
    • 14-17 Hands on power supply and solar battery charger unit (E., P.; D., C.,)
      • How to measure battery level
      • Development of a voltage controlled power supply
      • Development of a solar power Ni-Mh battery charger with current limiter
  • Friday
    • 9-13 Putting all together (E., B., P.; D., C.,)
      • Print cases
      • Cabling and integration of developed units
      • Electrical tests
    • 14-16 Test and documentation of the device (E., B., P.; D., C.,)
      • Software test
      • Wiki documentation report
    • 16-17 Closing remarks (F.; D., C., A.)