More and more people these days take medication on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many aging people have trouble remembering when to take pills. The Pill Minder is a machine to take the guess work out of medicating.
Planned features include:
*Easy loading of pills
*Storage for multiple types of pills
*Ability to dispense pills at specific times
*Persistent audio-visual reminder when pills are dispensed
*Clock with AM/PM indication for those who lose track of time
Stretch features include:
*Ability to identify bottles by bar-code
We had a meeting last night, a decided we may have put the cart before the horse. Once we decided to go with the cartridge design, we just assumed it would have an internal "tube" holding the pills. We failed to look at alternative methods of packing/storing pills. Below are a few more pill dispenser ideas:
The cartridge dispensing method is still up in the air. We brainstormed 3 ideas - plastic film with holes, a rotating drum, and a reciprocating plate. In each of these designs, the cartridge has a tube which holds the pills and a dispensing mechanism (except the motor, which is part of the machine). Below are the initial concept drawings:
Pills come in various sizes and shapes, and because of that, the cartridge template needs to be modular enough to accommodate different designs. We'd also like it to be flexible enough to accommodate ideas and designs we haven't though of yet. I'd ideally like the size and shape of the cartridge to be completely flexible (as long as it fits into the proper envelope). The only rigid part of the design would then be the mounting, actuation, and machine readable portions of the cartridge.
Dmopalmer suggested we use a load cell or scale to verify pills. The AWS-100 was suggested as a cheap scale to hack. The scale was easy to tear apart (5 screws on top and some screws for the circuit board and load cell). The circuit board seems quite simple - 6 capacitors, a resistor and a microcontroller connected to a screen, led backlight, and load cell. Unfortunately the micro is covered with epoxy and i'm no reverse engineer.
Currently, I'm only planning on making a few "finished" machines - one for my grandfather (who has Alzheimer's) and one or two for family friends. But, I want to make the best product I can make, which leads me to an interesting hypothetical.
Who is my target market, and what do I want to do with this machine? Do I want to partner with a large company like Walgreens and have my product only work with Walgreens branded cartridges? This would probably impact the largest number of people. Do I want a universal pill solution - as-seen-on-TV? My target demographic definitely overlaps with theirs. There are clear pros and cons of each choice. Please tell me what you think.
The last log details a tall, skinny, cascading storage system. This concept is a fat, short system that does not cascade. Each pill type is stored on a different level (in a veined carousel), with a shared shaft to add/remove pills. Unfortunately, this adds complexity, with a "shuttle" to access different levels (for adding pills) and possibly a second shuttle to rotate individual levels.
I was also toying with the idea of a shake conveyor, in this case vibrating a piece of sloped angle aluminum. Below are some renderings.
This concept departs from the "store pills and dispense them one at a time" theme. Instead, doses (one or more pills) are held in individual containers. By making a rotating carousel of fins, and clever top/bottom plates, a high-density cascading system can be created.