Last year, Medical Design Technology published a two part series asking if design software could replace physical prototypes in the field of medical prototyping. (You can read Part I here and Part II here.)
The answer, from a collection of experts working in the industry, was a resounding "No."
Here, we summarize some of the considerations and reasoning from these experts:
Going from concept to production is inherently nonlinear. Each step of the way – from design to model to prototype to production – is subject to revision and feedback. The software for designing medical devices, which has become very powerful, does allow for a large degree of product refinement and testing, but it is not good at addressing the unknown. Software design often fails in considering how prototypes will act at the material design limits or in conjunction with other parts and processes.
As Steve Fidrych from Mack Prototype, Inc. states:
“Many costly design and process modifications can be avoided by proving out conceptual solutions with physical parts produced by the appropriate prototyping process in materials that closely reflect end-use properties ..."
The human factor is equally important for the evaluation of how users will interact with medical devices. How the device is handled and used is difficult to predict from a computer model.
Riley Phipps, from Value Plastics, states:
"... nothing truly replaces the benefits of having physical parts in your hands, particularly with those designs that factor usability into the specifications."
Also tied the human factor is the tangible product that can be used for marketing. There really is no substitute for a physical sample when demonstrating a product to medical professionals.
At Creative Mechanisms, we specialize in working on a tight deadline to bring your idea from concept to production-ready.
Contact us for more information on how we can help you produce your medical prototype.