SolidWorks Helps Design that Matters Create Low-Cost, Low Maintenance Infant Incubator for Third World

Non-Profit Cooperative Assembled Virtual Team to Prove $1,000 Incubator Was Possible, Safe, and Reliable

CONCORD, Mass. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — October 5, 2009 — The next step after designing a product is usually manufacturing it – unless you’re Design that Matters (DtM). The non-profit social development organization has designed a low-cost infant incubator not for production, but to prove it’s possible to create affordable, low-maintenance incubators for Third World countries.

DtM used SolidWorks® CAD software as the design platform to assemble a national team of 50 professional engineers and engineering students from MIT, the Rhode Island School of Design, Stanford University, and Arizona State University. DtM challenged the team to design an incubator from automotive components, because they are available even in the poorest regions of the world.

“The idea behind the incubator project was to demonstrate to manufacturers and donors that it is possible to build an incubator for less than $1,000, compared to the $30,000 that a typical commercial unit costs,” said Design that Matters CEO Tim Prestero. “Access to incubators sharply reduces infant mortality, but regions that need incubators the most are also the least able to buy and maintain them. Keeping a baby warm isn’t that complicated, so why aren’t incubators available in part of India and Sub-Saharan Africa? We studied the circumstances, and decided it was a combination of acquisition cost, maintenance cost, and availability of maintenance skills. Cars and trucks are everywhere, so we decided to take advantage of that supply chain and local car repair resources to make a better incubator for those regions.”

DtM’s biggest challenges were adapting automotive parts to a new purpose and fitting all of the components into a form factor small enough to transport to remote locations. The engineers and students modified parts and designed assemblies in SolidWorks. Then they distributed the 3D models over e-mail to each other and DtM.

Prestero said SolidWorks was a logical choice for a standard design platform because it’s widely used in professional and educational settings, and it’s easy to learn and use. Design that Matters reconciled the team’s contributions into a final design, then demonstrated it to potential users. SolidWorks enabled DtM to show the incubator design to potential users all over the world without the expense of transporting a physical prototype.

“3D models work better than pictures for demonstrating,” Prestero said. “They enabled the reviewers to give us helpful, and in at least one case unexpected feedback on aesthetics. The reviewers strongly preferred an incubator that looked like a machine, so the first design, which looked like a piece of Swedish furniture, put them off.”

In addition to the incubator, Design that Matters has developed other products around medical, economic, and social needs in the developing world. They include an intravenous drip controller, ATM cards for Third World micro credit projects, and the Kinkajou® Microfilm Projector and Portable Library for combating illiteracy.

“The incubator project is an example of product design reaching past economics to address persistent social problems, in this case Third World infant mortality,” said Christine Washburn, vice president of marketing at Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. “It shows the value of rethinking our basic assumptions about how products are designed, and we’re glad to have a role in the process.”

About Design that Matters (DtM)

Design that Matters, a 501c3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, creates new products that allow social enterprises in developing countries to offer improved services and scale more quickly. DtM has built a collaborative design process through which hundreds of volunteers in academia and industry donate their skills and expertise to the creation of breakthrough products for communities in need. Our goal is to deliver a better quality of service, and a better quality of life, to one million beneficiaries through products designed for our clients by 2012.

About Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp., a Dassault Systèmes S.A. subsidiary, is a world leader in 3D solutions. The company develops and markets software for design, analysis, product data management, documentation, and environmental impact assessment. It is the leading supplier of 3D CAD technology, giving teams intuitive, high-performing software that helps them design better products. For the latest news, information, or an online demonstration, visit the company’s Web site ( or call 1-800-693-9000 (outside of North America, call +1-978-371-5000).

CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, SIMULIA, SolidWorks, and 3D VIA are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries. Other brand and product names are trademarks of their respective owners. Copyright © 2009 Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.


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