Designing for Success: The Significance of Industrial Design in New Product & Medical Device Development
Industrial Design bridges the technology and mechanisms you’ve developed with the people who use the product. Often, the quality of these connections will determine the adoption and commercial success of the new product or medical device being developed. Ahead of World Industrial Design Day, we asked Senior Design Engineer, Will Morris, about the importance and role of Industrial Design in Medical Device Development:
Is ID important in medical device development?
Industrial design in medical device design & development is definitely important.
While it’s a key requirement to consider user needs and human factors in the preliminary stages of a development project, early industrial design work should translate these needs into outline ideas for the device and identify further design requirements. These very early design ideas then give rise to further development opportunities and provide engineering teams basic constraints to work within.
For example, a basic brief may be: “To design a device for monitoring blood glucose.” Without some initial ID work for scoping out and understanding user needs, an engineer could, for example, interpret the brief as being based around a desktop computer with ancillary equipment and spend a lengthy amount of time developing the technology only to learn that a lightweight and compact, wearable device was required. However, by utilising an effective ID process it is possible to create some early ideas and images to guide and inform the engineers of a suitable form and function for the device.
Do you feel that ID can sometimes be overlooked?
Function is critical in medical device development therefore, developing the technology whether it be mechanical, electrical or, a combination of both, is typically allocated most of the time and focus available. Ultimately meaning that industrial design can often be overlooked or left until the later phases of a project – sometimes this can simply be too late for a project to be successful!
Industrial Design spans much further than simply ‘boxing’ or ‘skinning’ the technology and mechanisms/features within it. The level of impact industrial design can provide is usually dependant on at what stage it has been integrated into the medical device development process.
Who is involved in the Industrial Design phase of a project?
Industrial design isn’t just a one-person job. Like all aspects of design, it often requires a collaborative approach between a range of roles such as design researchers, engineers, project managers and even other industrial designers to make considerations for all aspects of intended users such as ergonomic and psychological considerations. While it’s important to have engineers who appreciate the importance of industrial designers, it’s important to involve industrial designers who are multi-faceted and able to understand the requirements of mechanical engineers, manufacturers, and assemblers too.
What makes for a good medical device industrial designer?
Industrial designers should be able to shift between the scale of managing and balancing aesthetics with functionality and manufacturability to design devices that live beyond concepts and will be able to be made with their intended material selections and manufacturing process’ in mind. These considerations help speed up and streamline the development process for all parties involved.
In industrial design, there is a lot of talk about trends. We know that due to several reasons, medical devices can take a significant amount of time to develop. So, designing medical devices that meet current trends often isn’t wise as by the time the device reaches the market, it’s likely to be out of trend. Medical device industrial designers undertake heavy research and forecasting to develop devices that are timeless and remain ‘in trend’ for their intended lifecycle and sometimes beyond with consideration for their sustainability factors such as repurposing.
Not only do trends change over time but, users do too in terms of their capability and capacity over the period that they’re using a device. These usability considerations must be understood and accounted for in the design and its features. For example, a user may currently have the dexterity to press a button with a particular force but, they may not in 5 years’ time.
In addition, standards and regulations must be taken into consideration. For example, if a device is going to take 5 years to develop, it is possible that standards and legislation may change within this period. While industrial designers should have a solid understanding of how existing standards influence and impact the design of devices, they should also be considerate of how upcoming changes in standards might influence the design. For example, future legislation may require heavier focus on the environmental impact of devices therefore, it would be wise to implement those to avoid future changes.
Do you think there’s a growing importance on ID in the medical sector?
Yes, definitely! Especially with emerging technology, smart devices, wearables etc – there are a number of emerging devices / technologies that are intended to be worn by the user to monitor various vitals and/or deliver therapies. If a user’s going to be wearing something as frequently as daily, there needs to be an appeal to wear it: Should it be discreet? Should it be designed as an accessory? Should it be customisable? Whatever the case, they should be as confident and comfortable as possible both using and wearing the device.
Sometimes there can be some disconnect with the user – it’s important that this research and insight is strong to influence the ID positively. It needs to be translated, communicated, and referred to effectively throughout the design, development, and engineering process.
Unlike many consultancies, at HD, we equally pride our front-end design capabilities with our industrialisation, DFM & DFA expertise. While we offer individual development services such as FEA and Mechanical Design, we also offer full device development from concept through to manufacturing transfer. Get in touch to discuss how we can help with your product or medical device development project.
Senior Design Development Engineer & Business Development Manager
Will graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a degree in Product Design. Prior to Haughton Design, Will worked for Renishaw, where he led the industrial design for the current and next generation metal Additive Manufacturing machines. Will has a strong interest in Design for Sustainability, and the Circular Economy, looking to reduce companies’ environmental impact and often teaches about design engineering at local STEM events. Outside of work, Will enjoys Formula 1, rugby and travelling with friends.
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