If this succeeds, we will have a global breakthrough.
A 3D scanner that measures the growth of a premature baby from outside the incubator. International medical science follows with suspicion how former Electrical Engineering student Timothy Singowikromo (27), from Erasmus MC-Sophia, is working on this innovation. This will not only reduce stress for the baby, but also for the parents and nurses.
Measuring in an incubator
Enter the incubator with a ruler. Maneuvering your way through a spaghetti of oxygen and infusion tubes. And at the same time be very careful of a moving baby, who is not only extremely sensitive to any movement or touch, but also to infections. This is what nurses now have to endure when they have to measure premature babies. Each measurement requires two nurses, whose measurements require a lot of skill and concentration. What's more, current measuring instruments are not always accurate, less hygienic and less convenient to use. The process is also very time-consuming and stressful for both baby and nurse.
It is therefore highly desirable for nurses, doctors, parents and babies that growth monitoring can take place without contact. That is therefore the main purpose of the 3D baby scanner. The scanner - just like the baby length meter and the skull contour ribbon - is part of the doctoral research of Ronald van Gils, Senior Lecturer in Care Technology at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. Commissioned by Erasmus MC, Van Gils has been conducting research into non-contact growth monitoring in premature babies since 2015. This research is carried out for and with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of Erasmus MC-Sophia. It is considered highly relevant by the entire international medical community.
Van Gils took up the challenge with his students. Electrical Engineering student Timothy Singowikromo was one of the enthusiasts who responded in 2017. “At first, mainly because I thought it was a nice electrical challenge”, he says. “I had seen building amplifiers, and I did so as a hobby. Now I could work with lasers, cameras and vision technology.”
It was only after Timothy visited Sophia's Clinic of Neonatology Intensive Care (ICN) that he really understood what he was going to work on. “It was dark there and I had to be very quiet, because every movement or sound can be very stressful for a baby. During a measurement all sorts of bells and whistles went off. I saw the tension on the nurses' faces. Then I realised how challenging it is to follow the growth of premature babies. And what we would achieve with measurements from outside the incubator. This would reduce stress not only for the baby, but also for the parents and nurses.”
Baby scanner 3D
In a year and a half, Timothy carried out several investigations. The 3D technique he initially came up with turned out not to be able to offer a solution after all. In the end he decided to make his own design for a 3D scanner, based on triangulation and his electrotechnical knowledge and skills. This is how the Babyscanner 3D came into being, a prototype of a 3D scanner with which a height profile of a baby doll in an incubator can be scanned. From this height profile, the height of a baby can be derived automatically. Timothy won the Bachelor Award 2019 of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.
During the research Timothy worked at Create4care, a collaborative project between Erasmus MC and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. Here we are working on solutions to problems that nurses encounter in their daily practice. Meanwhile, Timothy is employed by Create4Care, in addition to his Master's degree in Management of Technology at Delft University of Technology. “I didn't have to think long, because I’m not going to let go of the Baby Scanner 3D just like that”, he says firmly. “I've noticed that working in care gives me a lot of satisfaction and that the combination between care and electrical engineering is a beautiful one. You're working on products that can really be used and that make the daily work of nurses a lot easier. The happy and sometimes even emotional reactions of nurses when I developed the prototype affected me a lot. That makes me keep going, even though it's going to be a long process.”
It will take a few years at the earliest before the Baby Scanner 3D can really be used in neonatology intensive care. Timothy: “We still have to go through the verification and validation process. We do everything according to the regulations. These are the lives of small, incredibly vulnerable people, so we are incredibly careful about that. If we know that the scan is working the way we want it to, then we have to look for money to produce and market it. That, too, will be a challenge, because we are entering a niche market. If we succeed, we will have a global breakthrough. That would be incredibly cool.”
More information about (the research) on the 3D baby scanner can be found on the new website of Zorginnovaties010, a programme of the municipality of Rotterdam in collaboration with Erasmus MC. The new website of Zorginnovaties010 will be officially launched during the third edition of the LSH010 Hybrid Breakfast on Thursday 10 December 2020. The theme is 'How to finance your healthcare innovation?