The design of the Wound Viewer cover demonstrates that the use of latest-generation digital technologies does not at all imply high costs. A broad cross-technology approach (3D scanning, 3D modelling, 3D printing for prototyping and pre-series) has helped the company to significantly reduce costs throughout the entire development cycle and to optimise the product time-to-market.
Wound Viewer (WV) is a class 1 medical device able to automatically acquire and process skin wound images in a few minutes using an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. The device provides a doctor with lesion parameters and manages the organization of the digital medical records within a cloud architecture in order to make the data secure and accessible at any time.
Wound Viewer utilizes a patent developed in the research and development department of the startup Omnidermal, a spin-off of I3P, the innovative companies incubator of the Polytechnic University of Turin. Given the nature of the project, Wound Viewer also had the support of the Italian Association for Skin Ulcers (AIUC), both for the development phase and for the clinical trials of the technology. It is a project that has already received a series of important sector specific awards, the fruits of ambition of founders Jacopo Secco and Marco Farina, biomedical engineers who received their training at the Polytechnic University of Turin, and of all their associates.
Designing a shell to contain such a concentration of innovation has been almost as complex a process as applying artificial intelligence to dermatology. An exciting challenge which required the expertise of Protocube Reply in the field of Additive Manufacturing. In fact, the Wound Viewer housing is the result of the combined use of technologies including 3D scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing for the phases of prototyping and for pre-series production.
Let’s have a detailed look at each of the phases of operation that have characterized the design of the Wound Viewer housing.
ANALYSIS AND ACQUISITION OF THE FUNCTIONAL COMPONENTS
“Under the shell” Wound Viewer is essentially composed of two parts which represent the two main sides of the device. On one side is a board with sensors dedicated to scanning, on the other, a touchscreen tablet with an operating system and an interface that allows a doctor to perform all the necessary operations.
The technological complexity of the board meant that a focal simulation needed to be performed in order to understand what constraints were involved in the geometry of the cover so that it would not interfere with the operational aspects of the device. All aspects of LED lighting and sensor acquisition angle were then analyzed in detail. On a physical level, a prototype of the PCB was acquired using both traditional methods and the 3D scanning process, with a reverse engineering that allowed a faithful digital replica to be obtained which is conventionally defined as a Digital Twin. The tablet was acquired analogically through simpler procedures.
ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING FOR A MORE EFFICIENT DESIGN
The design of the Wound Viewer housing is meant to offer a compact, lightweight and ergonomically functional element for everyday use. A careful investigation identified the most important requirements to be met by this design including the need for a high degree of portability as well as the ability to allow doctors to swiftly carry out both the scans and subsequent operations to manage the acquired data. These requirements were addressed by exploiting the possibilities offered by 3D technologies. In addition to the operational speed of digital modeling and to the very useful feedback from the photorealistic renderings, the creation of the functional prototypes in 3D printing has allowed the client to test various design hypotheses over a much shorter timespan than would have been possible using traditional prototyping processes.
Using a manufacturing process of an additive nature it was possible to manage the hollowing and optimize the quantity of materials used, reducing the weight and the overall cost of the housing. A detail that is all the more relevant when there are numerous elements to be realized. A further aspect where 3D printing played a decisive role was production, in particular concerning pre-series and small lots. The housing was designed from the outset to be created using 3D printing even in its final version, not only in the prototyping phase.
The ability to 3D print every part of the housing also gives significant advantages in the production of spare parts which can be created on demand, significantly reducing the cost associated with warehousing and logistics in general.
MATERIALS AND CREATIVE FREEDOM
In the context of industrial design, knowledge of materials is an essential factor in a quality design. In the case of Wound Viewer, we decided to exploit a very simple material, nylon, because it is endowed with a series of physical and mechanical qualities that best match the functional needs of the housing to be designed. The elasticity and resistance of nylon combined with the characteristics of laser sintering 3D printing technology allowed us to better steer the formal choices of product design.
In the image below we see some details that were made possible thanks to this approach. The main element of the housing was realized through the printing of a single part. By leveraging the elasticity of the material, it was possible to obtain a locking device for the tablet by designing a very simple tab. With the same logic, through simple “deformations” of the cover panel, we created the four feet which allow the device to be set down without damaging the sensors.
The additive manufacturing technology has also made it possible to create the side runners through the printing of a single element, while to define the same detail using traditional methods it would have certainly been necessary to assemble at least two parts. The advantages deriving from this are obvious: lower costs, elimination of assembly times, a design that is more compact and with greater general strength due to the overall reduction of joints.
The realization of suitable holes and grooves, in addition to reducing the cost and weight of the element, guaranteed access to the parts to be inspected without compromising the overall mechanical strength of the housing. Those described are just some of the creative possibilities offered by new materials and by the new production technologies. There are no limits, except those of knowledge and of the search for new solutions.
Overall, Wound Viewer is a demonstration that the use of cutting edge digital technologies is not synonymous with high costs. Indeed, the cross-disciplinary approach on which digital production skills are based allows for the optimization of many aspects that economically affect the entire development cycle of a product. Besides significantly reducing the time to market.