The Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo was capped off this week by the annual Startup Competition. This year, the top prize was set at $15,000, awarded to the winner by the venture capital firm, Asimov Ventures. There were some impressive candidates, but in the end, the top award went to Metamason, a startup that has created a process for 3D printing customizable CPAP masks.
Anyone with sleep apnea knows how annoying the breathing masks are that are used on CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines. The nose pieces only come in small, medium, and large, and frequently don’t fit properly.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition, one that affects far more people than have been diagnosed and treated (an estimated 20% undiagnosed cases), and when people are diagnosed and outfitted with a CPAP, many quickly abandon the machine because of the ill-fitting masks. Since apnea seriously impinges proper breathing, it starves your internal organs of oxygen, causes serious daytime fatigue, vision problems, high blood pressure, increases the risk of diabetes, and some suspect is a factor in heart disease. In extreme cases, it can even be deadly.
Medical applications are proving to be one of the early killer apps for 3D printing and the Metamason mask is another fine example. Being able to scan your own face and easily print a mask, customized for you, could mean that thousands of apnea suffers who are currently not using their CPAP machines could have a way back. And the newly diagnosed might be more likely to stick with the prescribed treatment of the CPAP machine. It’s one simple solution that could have a significant impact on the health of many.