Bang Design

Embrace Infant Warmer

Saving Preterm Babies, Worldwide
Embrace was a startup born out of Stanford’s D.School program. As a part of their course, the founders undertook a study on how they could solve problems at a global scale. One problem they identified was preterm mortality in the developing world.
In India, an estimated 3.3 million preterm babies are born every year. And a staggering 24.9 out of 1000 live births die within their first month.
Many of these happen because of Hypothermia i.e., the babies die of cold at room temperature because their bodies don’t have enough muscle mass to keep them warm.
Preterm births lead to increased population growth as families hope for at least one child that will survive. It also pulls down the female productivity and affects their overall economic prospects.
Embrace came up with the concept of the Kangaroo snuggle, one where the baby would be kept in one compartment and a constant temperature heat source in another. And take it where patients needed it the most, primary healthcare centers or their homes in the villages of India. Their goal was simple: Keep the baby warm till it could be taken to a hospital with an incubator.
They needed a partner that knew the lay of the land. A partner whose experience spanned both tech and medical device domains. And experienced in building devices where none existed.

Project Insights

As the device was going to be first in class, it was important that,
  1. The product was easy to use and maintained by semi-skilled paramedics.
  2. Robust enough to survive when installed in an ambulance driving on village roads.
  3. Inspire Confidence in the Doctors who would certify it as fit for use.

Getting to Grips

To keep the baby warm at 37 degrees Celsius, Embrace developed a phase change material (PCM) based package that liquified at a slightly higher temperature and gradually cooled for over an hour. The insulating layer between the source and the baby regulated the temperature to 37C. The pack would have to be reheated back to the set temperature for reuse.

Easy to Use

The PCM recrystallizes once it cools below 37C. At this point the paramedic has to reheat it in the warmer. The PCM must be placed in the warmer in only a single orientation for the surface that meets the heater can never face the baby. We designed the heating tray and the PCM like a giant SIM card. This shape ensured that the PCM could only be inserted in a particular manner.

Precisely Hot

Thermal latency is a common issue across most element-based heaters. In the warmer, it could overheat the PCM if the paramedic forgot to remove it in time. We worked with a ceramic heating element manufacturer to develop a low latency heating plate that would switch off at the set temperature and pass as little heat as possible to the PCM. And helped develop a sensor that would precisely measure the PCM temperature to switch off the heater.

An eye on things

We built visual indicators to let the user know that the PCM was ready for use. And as a failsafe, provided a window to let them see without opening the warmer.
We also knew that the device had to pass the discerning eye of the doctors before Embrace could start manufacturing. And came up with a design that drew parallels with Apple’s MacBook (Snow White plastic body edition) from the doctors. A design, easy to carry, easy to use, easy to clean and looked the part.

In for the Long Haul

We used our ecosystem in India and the far east to prototype and tool up the product in manner that solved all challenges and could be manufactured affordability.
Qualities that helped Embrace deliver on their promise of saving Preterm Babies Worldwide. And made the then US President Barack Obama feature with Jane Chen(founder) at the White House!

Key Tasks Accomplished

  • Concept Development
  • Enclosure Design
  • Prototype Design
  • Materials Selection
  • Design for Manufacturing
  • Tolerance Analysis
  • Prototype Liaison
  • Postproduction support
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