Machine Design

Design for manufacturing comes to medical devices

There are special considerations when it comes to designing medical products that are easily manufacturable.

It's easy to make design decisions that can cause hardships once a product reaches the manufacturing stage. That's the message Tom Kramer, president of the Minneapolis industrial design firm Kablooe, will deliver next week at the MD&M West 2014 conference in Anaheim. The choice of material, choice of manufacturing process, components and their availability, all can impact the manufacturability of products, Kramer says.

And there are special challenges for firms making medical devices that must be easily manufacturable, Kramer says. "Take, for example, products that must be sterilized. The designer needs to know the method of sterilization and how to analyze the design to ensure sterilization gets to all the parts it needs to hit," Kramer explains. "When you have a device with moving parts, that sterilization analysis can get tricky. Ditto for other speicalized operations, such as protecting components from UV exposure, that tend to be part of medical product manufacturing."

Without planning, manufacturing issues can arise out of seemingly innocous mistakes, Kramer says. "In one case we worked with a company whose product contained a fluid. We weren't told the fluid level had to be inspected during manufacturing. When the design was complete, it turned out there was no way to read the fluid level sensor during the assembly process. We had to go back and add a window to make it visible," says Kramer. "There was no functional reason for that window once the product was in the hands of the end user."

Kramer's firm came to these conclusions from its work with medical manufacturers -- 80% of Kablooe's projects are in the medical field, Kramer says.

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