Many physicians at one time or another have probably thought their jobs might be a lot easier if they had custom-made devices to help them perform procedures. For the past nine years, a class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been making some of these wishes reality, at least for doctors in the Boston area.
"Precision Machine Design" -- also known by its course number, 2.75 -- allows doctors to submit proposals for devices they would like to see developed, and, if their idea is selected, a team of about three to five students will design and build a proof of concept of what they’re looking for. Though not all of the technology does not get commercially produced or put into practice, it gives physicians a glimpse of the potential for future medical devices, as well as an opportunity to do research to inform the field of medical devices, which is becoming increasingly more high-tech.
Click on the image below to check out some of the projects.
A kidney cooler, developed in the 2011 Precision Machine Design class, can be used to cool a kidney with ice slush during minimally invasive partial nephrectomies. This enables longer working times during operations.
(Source: Nevan C. Hanumara, MIT)
“Many physicians in the Boston area have pent-up desires,” Nevan C. Hanumara, a former student of the course who now co-teaches it as an MIT post doctoral associate, told Design News. “They are very good at what they do, and they recognize that they don’t have the tools to do as good a job as they would like to do.”
The course was developed in 2004. It was inspired by a conceptual design course in the MIT Sloan School of Management that was folded into a design-and-build engineering class taught in part by Professor Alex Slocum. Every spring since then Slocum and his class have been making a call for proposals to physicians in the Boston area through the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a nonprofit consortium of Boston teaching hospitals and universities. Physicians whose designs are chosen -- 12 to 15 -- then present their ideas before the class, and students get to select the ones they want to work on, of which there typically are nine.
“We don’t do team manipulation,” Hanumara told us. “If we pick properly with a wide array of projects, the students find something they are interested in.”
Each team then has a budget of about $3,000 to $5,000 and the duration of the course to design and fabricate the device. They are guided by Slocum and Hanumara, who act more as project managers then typical professors because of the time constraint and the hands-on nature of the course. They also work closely with the physicians who proposed the devices.
“The key thing is that everybody in the class has to be able to do the math, the analysis, the real dimension drawings,” as well as have the skills to machine the device and source materials for what they’re building, Slocum told us. “You really have only 12 weeks from concept to reality, and everybody who is involved in the class has to be able to do real in-the-weeds work. It’s a different model. There are a lot of good hands-on design classes… but we tend to be on the extreme end of producing real hardware.