A Surgical Light For The Developing World

A clever low-cost light fills a clear gap in the market--while also providing a new business opportunity.

In developing countries, many hospitals have to do without electricity. This is a problem, because when you’re doing surgery, you can’t do without light. Medical procedures end up happening in badly under-lit conditions, illuminated by flashlight or kerosene lantern.

As part of a contest run by India Future of Change, Michael O’Brien from Sydney’s University of Technology created a surgical lamp designed to solve these problems. It consists of a set of LED lights powered by a rechargeable 12-volt battery mounted in a sheet-metal frame.

The frame is made of a single sheet of metal. One material means one industrial process, which means that it’s ultra-cheap to produce at scale. Along with the LED components, it can be shipped in an envelope, making it easy to get to its destination. The frame is perforated to allow it to be folded into shape by hand, making it easy to install. O’Brien notes that this allows an opportunity for small businesses to grow around assembling the lights for use.

What’s interesting about this design is that as much attention was paid to the logistics chain as to the final product. After all, lighting in a hospital situation is already a solved problem. The real problem is getting lights to all the hospitals.

[Photos by Michael O’Brien. You can find write ups of the other contest entrants here.]

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11 Comments

  • Fab Man

     Looks great, but what about the heavy cylindrical center section? I don't think that could be folded up into an envelope or made from a "single sheet of metal". Also, all of the surgical lamps I've encountered in my design, fab, and, repair business have smooth, easy to clean and sterilize surfaces not the nooks and crannies of this design.

  • Rome

     And how is hold this lamp? as good as are LEDs providing electricity to this stuff to really run it for a "long" period will needs car-like-batteries... then you need to charge them... then you need electricity source.
    Trying to mimic "expensive installation" is perhaps not the best way to achieve the goal here. Head mounted LEDs will perhaps be more efficient.

  • Fab Man

     It's glossed over in the article,but it looks like this lamp holder is designed to retrofit an specific lamp system with the center handle, arms, levers, pivots etc., and a wall or ceiling mount. Might I suggest a better option of just replacing the existing incandescent or fluorescent elements with 12v LEDs. There's a wide variety of sizes and shapes now available.

    As a stand alone, I could see this light tied to the ceiling or have someone hold it-but then you're pretty much back to flashlights.

    BTW haven't we gotten beyond making paternalistic statements like:" If they're doing without electricity, i'm rather certain their often doing without sterilization!"

  • None

    the nob would easily fit in a packing enveloppe, just unscrew it. as for cleaning, this is still 1,000 times better then what they often currently have, a fraction of the cost and much easier to fabricate... something somewhere often has to give, and sanitary priorities (sadly) aren't their first priority. As stated in the first sentence of this article "
    In developing countries, many hospitals have to do without electricity." If they're doing without electricity, i'm rather certain their often doing without sterilization!

  • Tristan Zimmermann

    How about retrofitting outdated equipment from affluent nations with LEDs?  That would provide business opportunities AND divert waste. 

  • Phuong

    Yes but you missed the point of how to deliver such equipment to the developing world, existing equipment are heavy and designed for places with dependent electicity whereby this is a standalone unit that can be shipped via notmal mail and deploy in makeshift environment.

  • t3d

    I also agree with Rob, I'd love one of these. Ikea could pull this off, although they probably wouldn't want to give away any profit.

  • Rob Grant

    make it available to the public too, allowing a private citizen to buy it with "profits" going to pay off a copy that would be sent to a 3rd world country. Much like Tom's shoes where it's a "buy one for yourself, and one is sent to a child in a 3rd world country"

    I say this, cause I'd want a light like this in my office!