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Design that Matters (DTM) has developed a low-cost infant incubator to prove it is possible to create affordable, low-maintenance incubators for developing countries.

DTM used Solidworks CAD software as the design platform to assemble a national team of 50 professional engineers and engineering students from MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design, Stanford University and Arizona State University.

DTM challenged the team to design an incubator from automotive components, because they are available even in the poorest regions of the world.

‘The idea behind the incubator project was to demonstrate to manufacturers and donors that it is possible to build an incubator for less than USD1,000, compared to the typical USD30,000 that a commercial unit costs,’ said Tim Prestero, chief executive of Design that Matters.

DTM’s biggest challenges were adapting automotive parts to a new purpose and fitting all of the components into a form factor small enough to transport to remote locations.

The engineers and students modified parts and designed assemblies in Solidworks.

They then distributed the 3D models via email to each other and DTM.

Prestero said that Solidworks was a logical choice for a standard design platform because it’s widely used in professional and educational settings, and it’s easy to learn and use.

Design that Matters reconciled the team’s contributions into a final design, then demonstrated it to potential users.

Solidworks enabled DTM to show the incubator design to potential users all over the world without the expense of transporting a physical prototype.

‘3D models work better than pictures for demonstrating,’ said Prestero.

‘They enabled the reviewers to give us helpful, and in at least one case unexpected feedback on aesthetics.

‘The reviewers strongly preferred an incubator that looked like a machine, so the first design, which looked like a piece of Swedish furniture, put them off,’ he added.

In addition to the incubator, Design that Matters has developed other products around medical, economic, and social needs in the developing world.

They include an intravenous drip controller, ATM cards for micro credit projects, and the Kinkajou Microfilm Projector and Portable Library for combating illiteracy.

SolidWorks, a Dassault Systemes SA brand, is a world leader in 3D solutions.

SolidWorks develops and markets software for design, simulation, product data management and product documentation. It is the leading supplier of 3D CAD technology, giving teams intuitive, high-performing software that helps them design better products.

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