We often say that engineers help improve our quality of life by the products they design.
In this special Medical Issue, we report on how they actually make life possible for people who face the threat or actuality of heart attacks. And that includes just about everyone.
Here are a few examples of engineers attacking heart disease with computer productivity tools:
DEKA Research & Development (Manchester, NH) is developing a new version of a stent that will help prevent the closing of arteries after angioplasty surgery. Engineers at the firm are using ANSYS/Multiphysics software to, among other things, determine the actual loads on a stent inside the human body. Because of conflicting requirements for the stent-soft and flexible going into the body, stiff when expanded to keep arteries open-part geometry was the only variable engineers could optimize. Engineers modeled the extremes of the material and loading conditions, analyzed fatigue, and verified test results of prototype stents. The software enabled them to cut four months from the stent design.
Designers at Baxter International's Fenwal Division used Autodesk's Mechanical Desktop to develop blood-collection, separation, and transfusions systems. The engineers report that the software helped them solve bearing and port-connection problems on a disposable separation device, and design the parts to tolerances of within one-ten-thousandth of an inch.
At the University of Pennsylvania medical school's department of anethesia, researchers are using Algor's Acupak/NLM software to optimize a mitral valve prosthesis designed to support weakened mitral valves. The goal: analyze stresses heart operation places on the mitral valve so they can design a valve that will last longer.
Some say there is a point where society shouldn't pay any more for good health-and, by implication, new medical technology. I say, give me the life-saving technology any day. Life is precious. When we can provide the technology to help people live longer, we should. The patients can choose whether they want to take advantage of the technology. As for the costs: We can find other areas of the economy to make savings.