Using Design Software to Develop an Emergency Preparedness Device—A Case Study

Posted in Medical Software by Heather Thompson on December 28, 2012

Livengood’s Mobile Patient Care Environment (MPCE) needed PTC Creo's Design Software to respond to changing market needs for its product development.  

Livengood’s Mobile Patient Care Environment (MPCE) provides hospitals and mobile response units the ability to deploy a complete ICU environment rapidly, in any location. The MPCE consolidates all of the equipment typically found in two ICU rooms onto a single platform no larger than a single current IV pole. Classified as a piece of medical equipment itself, it is tested to the IEC 60601-1 standard, which provides requirements for safety applicable to medical electrical equipment that is patient-connected or within the patient vicinity. Far more stringent than similar consumer standards, compliance ensures that hospital safety standards are preserved even when deployed to emergency sites such as a gymnasium or tent.

The Goal

Have Livengood’s MPCE become the standard of patient care in emergency preparedness.

The Challenges

  • Multiple medical products and customer-specific configurations require rapid design of modules to match.
  • Use of different design engineers over time with variable historical knowledge of the product.
  • Limited funding for prototype qualification beyond CAD design.
  • Highly-regulated, heritage market that is resistant to change in established systems.
  • Product use for multiple patient types in varied environments.

The Situation

Livengood’s progression from start-up to production was a long road with multiple product variations along the way. The company needed to to rapidly create new designs to match specific customer needs and demonstrate the modularity of the system. For the Livengood MPCE to become the standard in emergency preparedness, its designers needed the ability to react quickly to meet customer requirements, a critical component for new product introductions. “If we couldn’t make last minute changes, we couldn’t exist. Our new product is first to market, but that market is comprised of many different hospitals and facilities – and each of them have a specific set of requirements,” said Joe Livengood, MD, chief executive officer, Livengood. “Our ability to quickly modify the products is essential to meeting our customers’ needs.”

Barry Phillips who is R&D director for Livengood describes the design environment at his company as fast-paced and high pressure. He generally has little time to train a new engineer on design software, and often needs to pull in contract designers to help deal with overflow work. It’s a stop-and-go development environment complicated by continuous change. Designers don’t have time to look backward and revisit a complex history tree or feature manager in order to make development progress. “If an engineer has an hour in his day available to design, we need the full hour for design—not 30 minutes of set-up and review with only 30 minutes of design,” says Phillips.

For example, Phillips typically spends less than a day instructing new users the basics of PTC Creo. This simplicity allows non-engineers to have more connection with the design. For instance, an illustrator can create third-party equipment models and a product manager is able to create customer specific renderings so they can be included with sales quotes, marketing material and as a tool for customer validation. “Other team members have also used Creo to create conceptual models based on their ideas before passing it off to the R&D lead engineers for consideration and implementation if feasible. It’s a fantastic way to get contributions from the entire company, and ultimately saves the engineering staff a considerable amount of time when they don't have to ask leading questions on someone’s design intent,” said Phillips.

By providing a direct modeling design approach, PTC Creo enabled the firm to respond to changing requirements rapidly and frequently throughout product development—even late into production cycles. Creo has allowed Livengood engineers to make unlimited changes to models on the fly. “Creo’s direct modeling approach allows me to leave a design for another task, come back later, and without review immediately jump into creating or changing a design,” says Phillips. The PTC Creo direct modeling approach is forward facing, working directly off of geometry to accelerate changes to features and models. “PTC Creo fits our development environment, allowing us to be three times faster than if we used other approaches,” Phillips says.

Most significant is what management notices about the design process. PTC Creo enhances the design process by allowing for rapid action on new ideas. Recently, a product went from concept to full prototype featured at a tradeshow, including marketing materials, in less than three weeks. A true testament to the flexibility of the software and ability to collaborate between team members, renderings were created along the way to share information and were eventually included in the marketing material which needed to be created prior to product build the day before it was shipped to the show.

The Results

  • Using the PTC Creo and the direct modeling approach to 3-D product development led to near real-time response to new customer requirements throughout product development—even into production cycles.
  • Livengood was able to developing new products and modules 3 x faster than competitors.
  • Rapid prototyping in early phases of new designs enabled quick changes.
  • The rendering package was of high enough quality to be used in marketing material, as opposed to traditional CAD drawings.

The Bottom Line

For Livengood to achieve its ultimate goal of being a Mobile Patient Care Environment in austere situations, they needed a 3D CAD system and design approach that would enable rapid prototyping and design changes in order to deliver the right products for their prospects customers, and investors. For a company with a vision to introduce an entirely new concept to market, unpredictable change is the only thing that can be predicted. To meet that type of challenge, Livengood chose PTC Creo.

—Brian Thompson is vice president product management, PTC.

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