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Design Close-Up: Overcoming the Complex Demands of a Medical Part

Design Close-Up: Overcoming the Complex Demands of a Medical Part

From functionality to aesthetics to cost pressures, product developers today face an unprecedented variety of conflicting demands. In implementing the most efficient, cost-effective process for their designs, every design engineer can benefit from working closely with experienced mold makers and molders.

This article will look at a specific product design for which the demands were particularly acute: a medical product for the growing home healthcare market. The part in question is a disposable insulin cartridge for a portable insulin pump. Custom plastics molder Plastikos and its sister mold-making company, Micro Mold, have collaborated for years with part designers on successfully bringing complex designs like this to fruition. The article will explore how the team worked with the customer to identify, analyze, and execute a range of tooling and process refinements to address three key challenges: material selection, gating locations, and part ejection.

Thanks to collaboration upfront between product designer, mold maker, and molder, the solutions led to a safer, better-looking, easier-to-use, lower-cost device. This was accomplished by choosing the right material compatible with both extremely tight tolerances and a very high-quality surface finish, establishing part gating to minimize aesthetic impacts while ensuring maximum structural stability, and eliminating drag marks caused when ejecting a part out of a complex mold.

As general consumer technology products like mobile phones and tablets have continued to get smaller and more user-friendly, medical devices have stubbornly lagged behind. But for patients who live with durable medical devices, technological innovations are changing the reality of their home healthcare. These are largely focused on quality-of-life considerations: convenience, discretion, ease of use, and improved quality and accuracy. While a medical device may be a necessary part of a patient's life and something with which they interact multiple times a day, they don't always want to broadcast to others when they are performing a very personal medical task.

The good news is that design trends are changing because OEMs that specialize in home healthcare devices are listening to consumers more and responding to their increasing demands to own a safe and reliable home therapy device that doesn't actually look like one. The conclusions are strikingly simple: the device needs to be accurate, reliable, and safe while being simple to operate, discreet, portable, and durable.

Because the design of a device is critical to patient adoption and even to health outcomes, the relationship between device makers and their manufacturers is more important than ever. A good example of close collaboration between medical device OEM, mold designer and builder, and injection molder occurred when Micro Mold and Plastikos set out to mold components of a disposable insulin cartridge for a state-of-the-art portable insulin pump. Patients wear the 3.13-inch x 2-inch pump around the clock, and they dispose of each 300-unit insulin cartridge every three days.

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