3D printing an insulin pump

As insulin pumps become more widely used the cost of those pumps is denying access to health care to many people. Not just people in third world countries but people in Western European countries. So why not build our own? It really is just a pump. Asking that question I found this paper, from NZ authors, in the US NIH web site:

So far as I can see it does include data to their CAD information, but I’ve never done any 3D printing and my knowledge of 2023 DIY PCB options is very limited. The link is from 2022.

This seems to tie in quite well with OpenAPS and I thought other people (including Dana Lewis) were working on this, but I’m not so sure. It’s not wearable; there’s a paper on the IEEE web site claiming to be doing wearable 3D-printed pumps but it’s profession-walled (you have to be a professional engineer to access it, and pay the IEEE more than you already do) and, quite frankly, the summary struck me as BS (unlike the paper I referenced).

This will happen; 3D printing is too good for it not to happen and too many of us are diabetic hacking mentats to stop it working despite inaccuracies in pump delivery systems (does anyone out there think a pump is accurate…).


In a tangential story, it appears that amazon briefly offered an “insuline” pump for $999 – who knows how real and/or the quality (ha!) of this, but the potential is there. (I am not sure if this link will work – I’ve linked to Scott Hanselman’s Facebook page – he is a T1 Microsoft guy who I follow)



Alas “page not found”, but I no longer have an FB login. Back in the day it was possible to do a web search (after the “web” was created in the late nineties) for words that had specific meanings for specific people, “phlugh”, “xyzzy” (the latter still does get a correct reference from that online encyclopedia that I am not allowed to quote). These days “insuline”, having passed the exam for clicking on the “yep, that’s what I said and that’s what I meant” link, gives me marketing for something else, without the ‘e’.

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Electro-mechanical systems are my profession, just not in the pump area, so I’ve often thought about a DIY solution, especially back in ~2016 when options were limited. The 3d printing is trivial. Even if you’re not comfortable using a Prusa, etc, you could outsource to Protolabs or Shapeways pretty affordably. The bluetooth interface is also pretty easy; there are plenty of off the shelf microcontrollers that would fit the build.

The part that held me up was sourcing a reliable, accurate motor and controller that would interface with off the shelf infusion sets and robustly mount to the casing. I couldn’t see a way to get a motor I wouldn’t spend all day second guessing. The important part is when you press the insulin button on your phone you are sure exactly that much comes out (need accuracy to 5 uL after all). Ideally you’d have the supplier give you data to prove its reliability. Briefly thought about asking the Animas people what they used after the J&J shutdown, but it didn’t work out. I see the paper tested a motor from China, but I’d need to see an entire paper devoted to testing the motor alone, including data like MTBF and operating limits, etc. (I mean they devote nearly as many words to setting the time and date as motor selection.)

IMO with the release of SOOIL and Dash pumps, there isn’t a big reason to make your own, outside of the cost. But by the time you DIY correctly it won’t be much cheaper.