Design for Manufacturability and Assembly
Product Announcement from Raytheon ELCAN Optical Technologies
This is the first in a four-part series on "design for manufacturing and assembly" or DFMA for short - an innovative way to bring prototypes, or even cocktail-napkin concepts, into profitable production.
If ever anyone clearly understood what good design combined with new technology might accomplish, it was Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps known best for his paintings of Madonna and the Last Supper, da Vinci was more prolific as a mechanical engineer and builder as he was an artist. In the early stirrings of the Renaissance Age of arts and sciences for example, da Vinci conceived the potential of the optical telescope. He wrote (in his reversed handwriting) about bringing: "…the image of a single planet onto the base of a concave mirror. The image of the planet reflected by the base will show the surface of the planet much magnified." It would still be nearly a century before great inventors such as Lippershey, Galileo and Newton would develop telescope designs that employed this optical breakthrough.
No doubt, da Vinci would be delighted to know that there is a renaissance going on today in optical technology - particularly when applied to medical devices.
"There is indeed a renaissance of optical applications in healthcare happening and a new generation of visionaries applying them," says David Dalrymple, the manager of global marketing and business development for ELCAN technology, a firm specializing in custom optical and electronic DFMA. "The challenges facing these new visionaries are how to overcome the huge prototyping, pre-production, and manufacturing barriers. It takes a visionary to come up with a new approach, but it takes a team to bring that vision to realization."
Today's optical technology and advanced manufacturing techniques are guiding the way to innovations in fluoroscopy, spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography, multi-spectral imaging, and medical electronics, to name a few. Each of these technologies results not only in new imaging capabilities to care givers, but also converge to create new possibilities for medical photonic R&D. ELCAN's Dalrymple notes that when a customer is looking for a potential manufacturing partner, there are often common customer needs that a supplier must address beyond basic contract manufacturing:
1. Have compelling ideas for a device but are stalled at the proof of concept or prototype stage for lack of technical know-how.
2. Are already on a time-sensitive path to market introduction but are overly ambitious or have no clear critical path to their goals.
3. Are technically savvy and entrepreneurial, but need a stable, full team of multi-disciplinary experts to complete their product development and commercialization.
Getting a concept properly designed, or a prototype re-designed for manufacturing and assembly, is the crucial step in the DFMA process - since design is the major determinant of final costs. And many, many companies get that first step wrong, according Wolf Glage, ELCAN's Vice President of Engineering.
"A study done by Munro and Associates shows that traditional cost accounting says design accounts for about 5% of the total cost of bringing a product to market. But the reality is that design's influence on cost is about 70%," says Glage. "So design very much drives not just the product's quality and user acceptance, but also its final price."
Cost consciousness is particularly acute in medical device developers and buyers minds ELCAN has concluded after more than 30 years experience in the field. Its research and development engineers create the most cost-effective design and identify the most efficient manufacturing approaches for clients, DFMA in other words over a wide range of applied optics. Among the consequent client developments have been: a new laser imaging system; better diagnosis and treatment of eye disease through the application of optical coherence tomography; radically improved lenses for a digital radiography system; a superior optical control bench for a urological treatment device; and an optical assembly that produces far sharper images for MRI and ultrasound scans.
ELCAN works with optical visionaries to combine good design with new technologies, as da Vinci would have done. You have a vision. Let us show you the light.
*Andy Shaw is a veteran Canadian journalist who has been writing about medical technology for over a decade.
Copyright © 2009 ELCAN Optical Technologies