Quick Release for Medical Air Tubing




Introduction: Quick Release for Medical Air Tubing

About: Ph.D. physicist, roboticist, and business owner. Member of the NovaLabs makerspace in Reston, Virginia.

Many people need an oxygen air supply to breathe, which involves long cords of oxygen tubing hooked up between an oxygen supply unit and the user's face and nose. If the user is moving around, the tubes can easily get caught on something, yielding to painful and dangerous yanks.

This instructable shows an easy to build, inexpensive magnetic quick release that attaches to standard size medical air tubing. When subjected to a hard pull, the disconnect breaks at the magnet connection. It can be rejoined easily just by putting the two magnet ends near each other. The inspiration is the Apple magnetic power cords.

Please note, by its nature this device is not 100% air-tight (though it should be reasonably close with proper assembly), nor medically sterile, nor has it been cleared by the FDA. No warranty is given or implied. This has however been successfully used by people with oxygen air tubes.

Public OnShape CAD workspace - you are welcome to remix, please send us a link to your new version!

YouTube video of assembly - this video demos tubing without the connectors, we recommend using tubing with connectors but otherwise the steps are identical.

Related Instructables by our team: Cannula Glass Clips and Tension Management for Oxygen Tubing.

Project homepage - includes related products for air tube supply users. This project was done under the auspices of Tikkum Olam Makers (TOM), and Nova Labs.


  • Neodynium ring magnets (2), about 3/4" outer diameter. Available at Home Depot and elsewhere.
  • Spare air tubing with standard connectors
  • Superglue or epoxy


  • Wire cutters or scissors able to cut the air tubing. Please clean them before using!

Step 1: Cut the Tubing

Using a clean pair of cutters, snip off one end of the medical tubing. You should have the connector plus a few inches of tube, the exact length is up to you.

Repeat for the other end of the tubing so you have two pieces.

Step 2: Print the Tube Holders

This project requires two 3d-printed tube holders. The STL file is attached here, the units are millimeters. Find a friend with a 3d printer or use third-party service. We used PLA for our version, but other materials should work as well. It will take about 40 minutes to print both parts.

Since 3d printed parts can vary slightly in dimension, it's a good idea to press-fit everything, especially the tubing, before adding any glue.

If you would like to make your own version, you are welcome to use the public OnShape CAD files listed in the intro. OnShape is free for personal use.

Step 3: Glue the First Magnet to a Tube Holder

Remember: do a sanity check of your 3d-printed tube holders and confirm that the tubing will fit in them (see step 5) before gluing the magnets on!

Place one of the tube holders as shown in the drawing. There is a vertical slit in the tube holder; have the slightly wider section of the slit towards the bottom.

Apply superglue to the top semi-circle of the tube holder.

Place magnet on the top semi-circle, centering carefully. You will have a very limited time to make any adjustments.

Step 4: Glue the Second Magnet to the Other Tube Holder

In gluing the second piece, we need to be sure that the magnets are oriented properly relative to one another. If they aren't, the two ends will repel each other instead of attracting!

Neodynium magnets are fairly strong -- they can come together and pinch your fingers if you are not careful. If the small discs get stuck together before assembly, sliding them apart is the safest way to disconnect them.

Once you've confirmed which side of the magnet should be facing up, move it away from the other magnet for now. Position the remaining tube holder as in the previous step. Add superglue and center the magnet on top as before.

Keep the magnets well away from each other until the superglue has a chance to dry. The force between them is powerful and can pull pieces off center or apart.

Step 5: Connect the Tubing

For this step, you may want to look at the video at the beginning.

We press fit the tubing first. Pinch the end and slide that tiny section into the wider portion of the slit in the tube holder. Once the tubing is in the center, it can be slid inward towards the magnet. It should go in deep, but not beyond the magnet.

If your 3d printed part came out too small or has some extra material on the inside, a file may help.

Once you've confirmed that the tubing can slide in correctly, take it out. Put a small amount of superglue in the tube holder opposite the vertical slit. Then put the tubing in as before. Superglue dries quickly, so again you will have limited time to get everything seated properly.

Repeat for the other tube holder.

Step 6: Use Your Release

Once everything is dry, bring the two magnets near each other -- they will snap together. To test the release function, give a hard yank at both ends. It needs to be a hard pull -- our users told us that they did not want it to release under light pressure.

The connectors can go directly onto any device with the proper fitting, and can be attached to other tubing by using a standard coupler.

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    5 years ago

    I get the frustration of long cords getting caught. I applaud the innovative thought behind this hack. However, as a physician, I have to strongly advise against anyone ever doing this. Oxygen delivery has to be medically supervised because the pressure and concentration has to be titrated accordingly. Further, oxygen deprivation is not necessarily like drowning where you know you are stressing your body to potential death. Moreso, it can be a slow process of taxing your already-compromised body to the point where once you recognize the problem, medical intervention is necessary and potentially too little, too late.

    Again, I think you are on the right track as far as your thought process. But medical device innovation requires failure testing and redundancy-minded safety before implementation. Keep at it! Open-source medical devices are a component of our future. But we need to ensure safety before releasing our inventions into the wild- in this domain. (And yes, thank you for premising this all with "this is not FDA approved or sterile", etc. But you didn't say this was informative-only...)


    Reply 5 years ago

    Thank you for your thoughtful response!

    I didn't give all the details, but we had a physician with us through the design process. We also had our end-user monitor her oxygen levels over a long period while wearing the device to see if there was any difference. I would certainly encourage anyone considering using this to do the same, and to take it off if it doesn't work well. By definition this object is only useful for active, mobile oxygen users.

    It is also worth considering what the risks of a fall are, because that was our end-user's big concern after a few close calls. There is a tradeoff.

    Hopefully some medical company will read this and make their own version...that would be wonderful.


    5 years ago

    This is really cool, thank you for sharing.