Maria's picture
The Next Generation of Medical Tools May Be Home-Brewed

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

Can innovation be fast, cheap and outside corporate control improve — and even save — thousands of lives everywhere?

The Problem: 

How can we toss out our false assumptions about how, and where, new ideas come from — and recognize that innovation is everywhere?

The Solution: 

To take apart, re-purpose or hack toys to save lives. Directed tinkering meets a vital need and we can demystify medical technology.


Researcher José Gómez-Márquez whose big thoughts shapes Little Devices", the lab he directs at MIT- uses toys to make affordable medical devices.The Little Devices lab takes a DIY approach to designing and building tools, mainly for healthcare.   A plastic gun can be to create an alarm that alerts nurses when a patient’s IV bag needs changing. And a box of Lego-like building blocks can be used to modify existing medical equipment in numerous ways. He creates devices that bridge the gap between absence of mechanical or electrical engineering or fundamentals of product design. Marquez talks about that toys can be the engineered piece or the mechanical bits and pieces that you can harvest and re-purpose. Gómez-Márquez happens to have the backing of MIT, yet he is joined by a large and often-unrecognized population of DIYers who are practicing low-cost innovation. Historically, the public has looked to research and development labs at multinational corporations, universities and government labs — and has grown accustomed to expensive, complicated devices used more often in elite hospitals than jungles or slums. Not surprisingly, those who make DIY medical devices encounter doubt and even derision constantly. Such attitudes are a problem, because the DIY tools dreamed up by backyard inventors, part-time tinkerers and academics like Gómez-Márquez could improve — and even save — thousands of lives everywhere, not only in inner cities but in communities everywhere. We need to toss out our false assumptions about how, and where, new ideas come from — and recognize that innovation is everywhere.

Interesting video :


It's all about the cost!

Alberto's picture

What a great idea!

"Toys have great supply chains", therefore they are cheap, despite not being cheap injection mould stuff anymore, despite having a significant engineering content. 

And "you may not have the courage to take a part a 1,000 dollars medical device, but youy definitely have the courage to take apart something that costs 5 dollars." 

Conclusion: for DIY to really work its magic, things have to be cheap. The cheaper the better. 

Add junkyards

Noemi's picture

and you got yourself a Med Makers revolution :-)