Banting is a device designed to save the lives of diabetics in the developing world. Many rural pharmacies independently choose which kinds of insulin to supply, meaning the kind of insulin available to the user can change without warning. Currently, diabetics who need to change insulin types must undergo costly retraining to calculate their new dosage. Banting allows for any kind of insulin available to be used in the modular system and can calculate the patient’s dosage with whichever kind of insulin is available.
Paying Homage to Dr. Banting
Dr. Fredrick Banting and his colleagues Dr. Best and Dr. Collip were the first people to discover that insulin deficiency was the root cause of diabetes. The three doctors selflessly gave their patents for the first synthetic insulin to the University of Toronto so that it would not fall into the hands of large pharmaceutical companies who could then overcharge and delay production of the lifesaving drug. Nearly 100 years after their discovery, insulin is still out of reach of many in the developing world due largely to the greed of the same large pharmaceutical companies which Banting, Best and Collip fought to deter. Similarly, the goal of this project is to re-democratize lifesaving diabetes technology by undercutting Big Pharma and the proprietary restrictions they have set in place.
The Banting project was shaped by a sizeable two-month research phase. Academic research, competitive product analysis, expert interviews and use scenarios helped to shape my understanding of the problem and the resulting design brief. Click on the image above to view the full research document.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to stop producing insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Diabetics must inject synthetic insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. If the disease is not properly managed, diabetics can suffer from a number of complications from kidney failure to blindness. On average, diabetics can only survive for one year after the onset of the disease without insulin.
Access to Insulin
Less than one quarter of diabetics in the developing world have regular access to insulin. This fact is reflected in the death toll from preventable diabetic complications. Diabetes and high blood sugar related complications kill 3.7 million people per year (this is more than three times the death toll from HIV / AIDS). Design alone cannot get insulin into the hands of the people who need it but it can make the small amount of insulin available to diabetics in the developing world useable to them.
Different types of insulin have dramatically different effects on blood sugar levels. Each kind of insulin will lower blood sugar levels by the same amount but over a different period of time. After diagnosis, each diabetic’s dosage of insulin can take weeks to refine and is usually a combination of a long and short acting insulin. Banting aims to make all kinds of insulin useable to diabetics who do not have consistent access to the kinds of insulin they know how to use.
Design a product that allows a diabetic to utilize any kind of insulin available to them without undergoing costly retraining.
From Sketches to CAD
Throughout the design process sketches and CAD were used in conjunction to create rapid form iterations. Simple CAD forms were generated in Solidworks and sketched on top of using Sketchbook Pro in order to refine the crude CAD.
Model making was also crucial to the success of the Banting project. Quick iterative models were generated throughout the project in order to obtain a general understanding of overall proportions and dimensions. A final aesthetic model was then generated.
Banting’s design was eventually refined down to two different directions: an all-in-one device and a modular device. Both directions had pros and cons with regards to usability, manufacturing and cost. Crude 3D printed models were created to test the use cycle of the two versions. It became clear that the modular system was the best direction to move forward with.
The modular design and nesting feature of the insulin pens into the back of the device make Banting more consolidated. The device also had to be as compact as possible as the user would need to keep the device nearby at all times.
Sanitation is a top priority when considering a medical device, especially for the developing world. The three insulin pens twist to expose the needle through the permeable membrane at the tip of the insulin pen. This innovative design feature prevents contamination of the needle and helps to keep it sanitary.
Banting needs to last a lifetime. The design of the device was a delicate balancing act between cost and durability of materials and manufacturing processes. The device is constructed from a combination of injection molded Delrin and a progressive die cut stainless steel “bumper”.