Human Design Medical

Sleep Apnea Machine

Case Study


The Problem

A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is a medical device that helps people with obstructive sleep apnea breathe more easily as they sleep. These bulky, wall-powered machines typically reside on a patient’s bedside table. During use, the patient wears a mask tethered to the unit by a six-foot-long breathing tube. These factors make traveling with CPAP machines nearly impossible for most patients.

The Solution

Human Design Medical and Smithwise worked to design and engineer the new ZI™: the lightest and most user-friendly, portable CPAP machine on the market. Exceptionally quiet, easy-to-use, and small in size, the 10-ounce ZI brings a new level of performance to the market.

In addition to developing the Z1, Smithwise also developed its PowerShell, the first fully integrated power solution for CPAP users who need a completely portable, built-in power source. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, the Z1/PowerShell system offers up to eight hours of cord-free use.


Smithwise pursued an aggressive schedule, building and testing design options in parallel to solve the device’s compact engineering constraints.

Trying to fit all of the machine’s mechanical components into a fraction of the device’s normal size, while also integrating an eight-hour battery life required expert engineering solutions. Through a rigorous design process, the team developed a portable solution that has been unobtainable until now.

Key design elements of the Z1/PowerShell system include a large backlit LCD, easy-to-use buttons, replaceable air filter, numerous configuration options, neoprene sleeve for comfort and transport, and swappable battery modules.

All of these features combine to create a powerful medical device while introducing a more approachable, consumer-focused product that accommodates users’ active lifestyles.

The ZI became commercially available through the Human Design Medical website in early 2014.

The Z1 established a new standard for portable CPAP machines by combining class-leading size, weight, and acoustics. Competitive products are an average of 50% heavier and 1.7dbs louder than the Z1 based on an average of competitive products at