3D-Printed Instrument Measures Oxygen Levels in Infants

The Pelican is a device designed to help diagnose pneumonia in newborn babies

Massachusetts-based non-profit design company Design that Matters has been using 3D printing technology to create prototypes of a diagnostic tool designed to measure the oxygen levels in infants and help diagnose pneumonia in babies.

The instrument is called the Pelican pocket pulse oximeter, which is an affordable and durable tool that is used to help diagnose newborn babies with pneumonia in developing countries.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. The condition is treatable and preventable, and isn’t something people worry about in countries like the US, but health care providers in developing countries lack access to tools that can help them diagnose pneumonia in babies and help them get better.

The Pelican pocket pulse oximeter for newborns was successfully funded via Indiegogo last May and, in the months that followed, Design that Matters conducted demonstrations at hospitals, including the Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The demonstration, as well as interviews with hospital physicians and staff, provided valuable insights into how to improve the Pelican prototypes.

Design that Matters has also brought the Pelican newborn pulse oximeter prototypes to hospitals in Haiti, with the assistance of Partners In Health and the Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation, last September. The organization was able to visit three different health care facilities and were able to gain even more insights into how the Pelican pulse oximeter are being used in the hospitals and how the instrument has helped improve health care for newborns in the facilities. The research trip also gave the team ideas on opportunities for improvement not only in the tool itself but also in designing health technology in general.


Project Pelican is a collaboration between the MDG Health Alliance Pneumonia Innovations Team, and the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies at the MGH Center for Global Health. The Pelican was also created with the help of a team from the MIT and Rhode Island School of Design Product Design and Development Class.

The video below shows the “New and Improved MIT + RISD Student Team Pelican Pulse Oximeter Concept.”

Design that Matters // MakerBot