Art Erdman, director of the Medical Devices Center at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), and Daniel Keefe, UM professor in the department of computer science, have developed a 3-D visualization system that could improve how medical devices are designed and tested. Whereas medical device design currently relies on the use of a long and iterative process known as computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), the new method could eventually streamline the design phase, shortening R&D cycles and costs, according to a MedCity article.
To design medical devices, manufacturers today use CAD/CAM and then produce multiple prototypes. In contrast, the UM researchers' 3-D immersive visualization and design environment enables designers to test all modifications without having to manufacture prototypes. The advantage of the system is that it enables testing to be performed in a virtual environment.
The system allows designers to load product-specific data, in addition to data from such sources as a tissue-registry or blood-flow database. This capability enables the system to generate the visuals necessary to see how the device is functioning. For example, designers of a new stent will be able to see how blood flows into a coronary artery.
The new system is going to be tested by a medical device company to determine, among other things, whether it will necessitate training, according to Karen Kaehler, technology strategy manager at UM's Office for Technology Commercialization. Although FDA is interested in gaining more information about the system, Kaehler says, it is supportive of the University's efforts.
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