A Clinical Grade Libre/Open Source 3D Printed Otoscope

Tarek Loubani

The Glia team is excited to announce a clinical-grade Libre/Open Source otoscope that is a Health Canada-licensed class 1 device! It costs USD$5 and we think it works as well as the USD$400 Welch Allyn Ultrabrite Diagnostic Otoscope. Heard enough? Go see more information at Glia’s Otoscope page or head over to our Github repository and go build your own o scope. Know FreeCAD and want to help? Get in touch! Still here? Watch this awesome trailer:

Does your expensive otoscope have a trailer? Didn’t think so.

Why we built an otoscope

The otoscope is one of the most iconic pieces in every doctor’s kit, second only to the stethoscope. It is also the primary tool for audiologists. However, there are no good clinical-grade options for Libre/Open Source or even cheap high quality otoscopes despite the device being simple. A basic otoscope costs USD$400 or more.

Audiologist Frankie Talarico designed an early otoscope through E4R designs, and joined forces with Glia to clinically trial E4R’s otoscope and improve the design. After some feedback from users in the field, Frankie did some incredible work addressing the issues and came up with version 3 of his otoscope design.

This design uses Welch Allyn disposables, but it is designed to easily accept whatever disposables a particular sector has with some minor modifications, which will allow users to keep costs down and commodify disposables.

Does your expensive otoscope have a glamour shot with flowers? NO IT DOESN’T!

How will you validate it?

Anecdotal experience with the Libre/Open Source otoscope is encouraging. It looks like it works as well as premium units and has excellent build quality. We don’t know how to research validate the otoscope and are open to suggestions. One possibility would be to compare engineering specs of the otoscope against a premium brand like the Welch Allyn. Another option might be to run unblinded or semi-blinded trials with physicians where we survey them on preference after using both otoscopes. Neither of these are clear winners and the literature does not support a particular method for it.

Call for help: Remaking the parts in an accessible format

When Frankie started this project several years ago, there were no great Libre/Open source CAD tools to help create the device, and so he used TinkerCAD. Unfortunately, TinkerCAD does not allow for true sharing of the source so that others can modify it. Modifying source is an essential freedom, and we recognize that. With the availability and development of FreeCAD over the past few years, we are requesting help from the community in remaking our files in a way that is truly accessible and modifiable. We hope to accomplish this task by January 2020. If you are interested in helping, contact us at the bottom of our webpage!

When can I buy one?

We plan to sell these otoscopes in kit form and as completed units by June 2020, though you should see them around sooner as we beta test them.

This release is for makers who are willing to dive in and try to make the devices themselves. This soft launch will allow us to work out kinks in the current design before we ship hundreds or thousands of units for clinical use. We haven’t set a final price, but similar to the stethoscope, we’ll tell you where every dollar goes. Open is not just for our source code, but for our entire project.

Tarek Loubani

Written by

Tarek is an emergency physician at London Health Sciences Centre (Canada) and Shifa Hospital (Gaza). He is a member of the Glia team making open medical devices

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade