Genius Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Shirt Prototyped On A MakerBot

Posted by on Friday, September 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Every now and then we hear a story from our users that really inspires us. I’ve shared a few of them (here, here, here, here, here, here…), and many of you readers supply the rest. Here’s another great one to file under MakerBots and Entrepreneurship.

In a senior design course at MIT, Pablo Bello, Carson Darling, and Thomas Lipoma were matched with a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who works with sleep disorders. Dr. Matt Bianchi told the group that the general way of diagnosing sleep apnea just wasn’t cutting it. After all, who can sleep in a strange place with 30 or more sensors attached to their body? Like they say in infomercials, there’s got to be a better way. There is, and it turns out a MakerBot helped make it happen.

The guys tackled the problem for the class and started a company, now called Rest Devices, right after graduating in June, 2011. From the beginning, they wanted to create a device for insomnia and apnea diagnosis that was “so easy your grandmother could use it.” We think they nailed it. This is the Sleep Shirt.


The magic in the shirt owes a lot to the thin-film respiration monitors that the Rest Devices team developed.

As a person breathes, the shirt stretches and we measure the tiny change of stretch in the shirt. Our design is completely on the outside of the shirt so there is no electrical contact to the body or exposed leads. As a result, it’s incredibly easy to use. Just put the shirt on, snap the data recorder in, and you can go to sleep.

Easy peasy. And here’s where the MakerBot came in. I asked Thomas why Rest Devices bought a MakerBot. Here’s his answer, and you can hear a similar answer in the video above.

When we started to seriously design the original consumer device for trials, we wanted something more polished. We essentially had 3 options: carefully modify existing cases to fit our components, pay a prototype injection mold house to make cases for us, or make our own. Looking at the cost and pros/cons of each, we decided to go with a MakerBot because it allowed us to make cases of a high enough quality for what we needed, but also allowed the cases to be custom made to the electronics we had.

Thomas Lipoma holding a prototype of the Sleep Shirt by Rest Devices. The casings for the electronic components of the Sleep Shirt were prototyped on a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic.

These guys had never used a 3D printer before but had some rapid and awesome success with their Thing-O-Matic. We’ve gotten a chance to look at the Sleep Shirt in-house and have been amazed how well crafted it is and how well all the MakerBotted components fit together.

I’ve been wanting to share this story on the blog for a while now, and when I took a minute to check in on the Rest Devices website recently, I noticed they’ve now launched the Infant Monitor to give anxious new parents some peace of mind.

Fantastic innovation being done on a MakerBot. If you have more stories for us, share them at [email protected].


Tagged with 6 comments

6 Comments so far

  • gladys
    September 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    what you are doing is amazing to this senior citizen, but why can’t we buy the shirt?

  • Matt
    October 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    No more having to get the gunk out of your hair, no more “in bed by 10, out the door by 6”, no more uncomfortable beds, no more… appointments!

    I’ve had sleep apnea 10 years now.

    This is awesome.

    You go Rest Devices!

  • Diane
    October 16, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I’m confused. I took this to mean that the shirt diagnoses sleep apnea. The responses allude to the fact that they prevent it and/or help in some way??? Am I missing something?

  • Jim Eubanks, R.Ph.
    October 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I’d also like to be able to buy the shirt. It would be great for confirming that my CPAP pressure remained correct between sleep studies, and when I change masks.

    It would also be far cheaper than sleep studies, and avoid the problems mentioned above by Matt. I also hate sleep labs for the uncomfortable beds, difficult sleep schedule for the unfamiliar location, distant location from home, and yes, the hair gunk.

    Of course, I’d take at least a 2XL.

    I’ve printed a copy of this article for my next visit with my Pulmonologist.

  • Andrew Charles
    July 28, 2013 at 1:03 am

    It would be great if this shirt was available as an accessory to CPAP devices, with a wireless connection for feedback between the shirt and CPAP machine for continuous adjustment.

  • Wing Wong
    February 8, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Looks like it just measures respiration. Ie, the chest and abdominal belt. Does not measure muscle activity, eye rem movements, or brain activity. No oximeter either.

    The issue with this kind of design would be the variability of conductance in the conductive membrane on the shirt. Also, during the sleep studies, all sensors are checked with a series of actions and movements to confirm baseline readings.

    Doubtful this shirt will fisplace the sleep studies. What it will probably be good for will be workout settinggs to measure your breathing and heart rate during a workout. Though with ir cameras like the xbox one has.. That can be non-contact already without a custom shirt.


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