Fall 2014

Role: Mechanical Engineer, User Researcher

Team: 4 Students (Mechanical Engineering)

Skills: Sketching, User Research, Rapid Prototyping, CAD, Electronics, Public Speaking

Tools: Thermoformer, Machine Shop, Electronics Lab, Rhinoceros

My team designed a new compression-based breast pump to compete with current suction models.  I conducted research among 100+ new mothers to determine areas for improvement in the market and based our pump technology on the inflation mechanisms and feedback loop in a blood pressure cuff.

After weeks of concept generation and refinement, our group decided to focus on redesigning the breast pump.  After researching existing models and technology, we interviewed women in local new mothers groups and surveyed over 100 local breast pumping women to target areas for improvement.  Our research revealed that mimicking the movement of hand expression, the process of using manually expressing breastmilk, would increase the comfort and efficiency of pumping.  We molded a silicone mound and asked mothers to mimic hand expression onto the mound.  By placing a force sensor beneath their hands, we determined the appropriate amount of force that our breast pump should exert.

Our final prototype consisted of two compression rings repurposed from blood pressure cuffs.  These rings would squeeze at the same time and then release one at a time to simulate hand expression.  Future designs would incorporate more rings for increaced functionality.  To constrain the compression rings, I thermoformed a cup and glued it to an existing bottle attachment.  Using an arduino, we programed two motors to inflate and deflate the compression rings. I created a CAD model Rhinoceros.  We each presented our prototype to an audience of over 200.