Medtech Embraces Computer-Aided Product Development

Trivia Tuesday: When did the medical device industry make the leap to computer-aided design and manufacturing?

Amanda Pedersen

January 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Engineers using CAD software
Engineers using CAD softwareImage credit: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images

By the time medical device manufacturers got around to adopting computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) software, the automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries had already been using the tools for decades.

So, when did the medical device industry begin to embrace CAD/CAM and CAE software, and what nudged manufacturers in that direction?

In 1995, MD+DI published an in-depth article noting an increasing interest in computer-aided design and manufacturing software for medical applications.

"Stricken by declining margins and heightened competition, [the medical device industry] now appears motivated to make the leap that other major U.S. industries have already made," writes Greg Freiherr, a former contributing editor for MD+DI.

The trend coincided with market trends that also drove software suppliers to release new and easier packages for computer-aided design, manufacturing, and analysis.

"We seem to be getting just as strong an interest [in our software] from medical device folks as from aerospace and other industries," said William Sprague, who was vice president of implementation services at Boothroyd-Dewhurst at the time, a CAE software vender.

There was also a wave of consolidation happening around that time among software vendors that provided added benefits for medical device manufacturers wanting to join the computer revolution. The ability to create designs using CAD/CAM software and then analyze those designs using CAE software was the real icing on the computer-aided cake.

In December 1994, Rasna released the seventh version of its Mechanica program, which consisted of 10 integrated analysis applications with separate modules. Three of the analysis applications (modules for nonlinear, buckling, and load analysis) were of particular importance to for medical device manufacturers.

Nonlinear contact analysis predicts where deformation of two parts might occur, as in the case of modeling a knee or elbow joint, explained George Henry, who was a senior implementation specialist at the time with Parametric Technology. He said the ability to predict buckling of a plate outside a plane might come in handy when designing a component that holds two bones together, for example. It might be necessary to increase the thickness of the plate, not so much for strength, but to prevent buckling. And factoring in loads helps evaluate how the distribution of forces will affect a structure.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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