Hi. I'm Colb. As a high-school-aged teen, exercise is a big part of my life. I have always enjoyed running, swimming, biking, and going to the gym. In 2013, at age 12, however, I encountered a setback. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes, an autoimmune disease where the pancreas loses the ability to create insulin. Insulin is the hormone that breaks down nutrients to create energy. As a result, I have to inject insulin and control how much I need on my own, as well as monitor my blood sugar as it fluctuates throughout the day. My workout routine was affected a bit, because exercise makes the insulin more effective. Stronger insulin means dropping blood sugar, which can lead to dangerous low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. I had to find a safe solution to avoid this, and in this Instructable I will tell you how I did.
Step 1: Correcting Low Blood Sugar
In any situation where my blood sugar goes low, I must correct with glucose tablets. These are basically just large Smarties or SweetTarts that will quickly give me sugar. Typically I carry a blood sugar testing kit with me, which contains everything I need to test as well as a container with 10 glucose tablets. A couple problems here: 1) I can't carry my kit while I run, and 2) I don't need all 10 tablets for a run. Luckily I don't need my kit, as I have app by Dexcom that tells me my blood sugar without me having to test it. But the lack of tablets on a run was still a problem. For a while what I ended up doing was going for shorter runs, close to home so that if anything happened I could just walk back. That's not fun for anyone, though. Then I decided to put 5 tablets in a ziplock bag and attach it to my shorts with a binder clip. This worked, but it was only a temporary solution. That's where the 3D printer came in.
Step 2: Getting a Rough Idea Together
The first step here was modeling. In Autodesk Inventor, I drew up a cylinder with a clip off the side, and then separately a cap that would fit over the top. The cylinder was designed to fit 5 tablets, as I had been doing with the ziplock bag. This two piece design was what I ended up going with, and I included a ring and groove locking mechanism on the cap and body. When the first model was ready, I took it into school and printed it on the 3D printer. I don't have one at home, so I use the resources there. As you can see in the picture, my first print was a success, and the cap and body fit together nicely with some sanding. The top of the body ended up breaking, so I knew I had to strengthen it. The container was too narrow to hold the tablets, so remeasured and changed the dimensions in the file. After that, it was on to the next print!
Step 3: Print Attempt #2
Print two failed. I tried to use a different printer at school, and it turned out not to be a good fit for the project. The support material was obnoxious and couldn't be removed. I never even got to see this one outside of a photo from my friend because someone broke it and threw it away when it finished printing. Thanks a lot for that one, whoever it was. It seems like that print wouldn't have been very functional anyway, but it would have been nice to see if the tablet fit. Without wasting any time, I printed the same model on the better printer at school.
Step 4: Print Attempt #3
This time I knew I was getting close. The tablets barely fit, so that was an area for improvement, but I finally had a working model of my glucose tablet holder. I widened out the container a little bit more and tried printing it again.
Step 5: The Final Print
Just for fun, I tried printing this final design on both printers. Once again, the same one failed again, but the other printer did fantastic. I tested it out and it worked perfectly! The 5 tablets fit comfortably, the cap fit, and the clip worked on my shorts. This one was ready to go. One of the pictures on this step shows the evolution of my design, with the final one in front. I was so ecstatic that I went for a run right when I got home from school.
Step 6: Reaching Out
Soon after I finished the final design of the case, my dad sent a picture and message to his friend in Colorado (we live in Illinois). His friend also happens to have type one diabetes, and he also enjoys running. He loved the idea, so I printed off an extra to send to him. So at that point I was not only helping myself, but also helping someone else with my same condition.
Step 7: Life Goals
When I get older, I want to be an engineer. I've always known that, ever since I started toying around with Legos at a young age. Now I finally get the opportunity to make a difference in lives in the same way that engineers do. One of the options I'm considering for my future is biomedical engineering. In that profession, I would be helping people with diseases like diabetes. Of course, that would be on a much larger scale than a glucose tablet holder, but I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to design and fabricate things that improve others' lives.
Step 8: Conclusion
So after all that work, all the iterations and time spent, I finally have a working product! Now I can go on longer runs without worry of severe hypoglycemia, and it all comes from a small, barely noticeable container.
I am submitting this project to the 3D printing contest under the Health division. Having my own 3D printer would mean that I can make more life-changing devices like this one. I already have a case designed for a receiver that didn't originally come with one. As I come up with more of these designs for diabetics, I will upload them to Thingiverse so others can also download and print them. I will put a link to a folder there once I create it.
If you've made it this far, thank you very much for reading about my experience. Above all, I hope it inspires you to solve a problem using a 3D printer like I did.