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January 1, 2002

4 Min Read
Design All Stars: Handle with care

Editor's note: In the October issue of IMM we introduced a new series of articles to recognize products where both injection molding and intelligent industrial design play major roles. This article, the second in the series, highlights a portable medical device that replaced a heavier, costlier version. 

A potentially life-saving medical diagnostic tool, called OptiGo, makes it easier and less costly for physicians to perform a cardiac ultrasound. This test (also called an echocardiogram) can give an accurate picture of how the heart functions, its chamber size, and even whether or not there is cardiac damage. Heavy doses of industrial design and injection molded plastics played a major role in bringing this portable marvel to market. 


Project: OptiGo portable cardiac ultrasound unit
Concept: Laptop unit with integrated handle for portability and storage
Designer: Product Insight Inc.
Timeline: Six weeks for enclosure design and prototype
Dimensions: 13 inches wide by 9 inches deep by 3 1/2 inches tall (closed)
Weight: 7.3 lb
Appearance: High-tech laptop, metallic painted housing
Materials: Enclosure: PC/PET; latch: nylon; display housing bumpers: TPR 


Most of the plastic parts for the enclosure were molded from PC/PET for resistance to cleaning solutions and bodily fluids. Other molded parts include a nylon latch and TPR bumpers for the LCD screen.

ID Improvements 
Philips Medical Systems (formerly Agilent Technologies) in Andover, MA had developed OptiGo for several years. When it came time to create a user interface and graphical display, designers contacted Product Insight, a product design firm specializing in art-to-part services. 

Jon Rossman, vp at Product Insight, explains how the project unfolded: "As we were working on the interface and display, we began to make other suggestions. Here was a portable device with no handle, and a 4-ft cord with no way to manage it." 

Eventually, Philips expanded the design firm's role to include the OptiGo enclosure. "We had to work within tight constraints because the internal electrical engineering work was already finalized, including the PC board and EMI/RFI shielding scheme," says Rossman. "A series of concept sketches and foam models were produced that would have a varying level of impact on changing the design. Based on the benefits and improvements, Philips chose one that would require a lot of engineering effort." 

To develop tooling-ready CAD files and create a prototype in six weeks for an upcoming trade show, Philips again turned to Product Insight for the engineering work, which included designs for the plastic enclosure parts, two diecast magnesium parts, and several sheet metal parts. "Philips wanted to introduce this product at the show. While they didn't have the resources to design and prototype these parts in a short time frame, we could do the work. Also, we were able to address shielding issues and create a latching design for the cover as it closed," adds Rossman. 

Life Saver 
Until introduction of the portable OptiGo unit, physicians were unable to perform this test in an office or field setting. The traditional 500-lb piece of equipment was housed on a large cart, making it impractical for a doctor's office or for easy transport. In addition, the $100,000 to $200,000 price tag put it out of reach for most physicians. 

By comparison, the laptop-sized OptiGo costs $12,000 and weighs a little more than 7 lb. Think of it as a visual stethoscope for evaluating heart conditions. Doctors can now perform this test during an office visit or while making rounds at a hospital. Young athletes can be tested for life-threatening heart conditions during a routine school sports exam. It can be used in a hospital's ICU, CCU, and ER departments. 

Its rechargeable battery system operates for 4 hours. The hinged, latched case contains a 640-by-480-pixel LCD screen, a control panel, an integrated handle, and all system electronics. The probe, which is used to send sound waves into the body and receive them, is housed in a pocket on the enclosure. There is also a pocketed area in the integrated handle that holds the cord for the probe. 

All exterior housing parts and access doors (for battery and compact flash memory card) are molded from PC/PET (Bayer Makroblend) for chemical resistance to cleaning solutions and bodily fluids. The latching device is a nylon (DuPont Zytel) for strength and lubricity. In addition, there are TPR bumpers on the display housing to cushion the LCD screen when it makes contact with the main housing as the unit is closed. Mack Molding (Arlington, VT) sourced the tooling and molded all thermoplastic parts. 

Contact information
Product Insight Inc.
Acton, MA
Jon Rossman
(978) 264-4450, ext. 22

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