If you’re of a certain age, you might remember little plastic doctor’s bags for kids (and they’re still around today).
And inside the plastic bag, would be a plastic stethoscope.
– which was about as useful as the container of candy pills that also came inside.
But now, there is a polymer (aka plastic) stethoscope, that probably costs less than the whole doctor’s bag for kids and – this one actually works.
And if anything does happen to it, you can just make another – because these plastic stethoscopes are made on a 3D printer. The cost? Less than 3 bucks (compared to $100, $200 and more for a traditional one).
That may make medical students happy – one less pricey item to buy. But in many parts of the world, a $200 stethoscope isn’t a strain on the budget, it’s just unaffordable or unavailable, period. So an extremely inexpensive, model – that can be printed as needed (and potentially customized as well) – that could be truly life-saving.
Because two hundred years after its invention, stethoscopes are still a simple, useful way to take a quick look inside us – to hear our breathing and blood flow and more. Not to mention, that wearing one around the neck, is as basic to the look of a doctor or nurse as a set of hospital scrubs.
The “Gila model” as it’s called, was developed by a group led by a Canadian doctor. The key ingredient is ABS plastic – inexpensive, easy to work with – though it IS hard to spell out. ABS stands for “acrylonitrile butadiene styrene”.
So just call it another plastic made from petrochemicals. And we can also call it just another way petrochemicals make everyday life (a visit to the doctor, in this case) possible.