A series of interviews with EMDT that offers personal perspectives on the diverse and dynamic medical device industry. Here we talk to John Walters.
is a Design Engineer at Kimal plc
Sherwood Road, Aston Fields, Bromsgrove B60 3DR, UK,
tel. +44 1527 572 336
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.kimal.co.uk
Q If I wasn’t talking to you right now, what would you be doing?
A Life as a medical device designer is never dull. As well as giving thought to the next up and coming product, there are the existing devices that, because we are a manufacturing company, are subject to our commitment to continuous improvement. I achieve this by reverse-engineering existing devices and concentrating on exactly what the device is used for and how we can design it to give even more added-value to the doctors’ and clinicians’ techniques. In addition, I find myself more frequently involved in the regulatory aspects of purchased products. Using my engineering and design knowledge, it is my responsibility to put the appropriate questions to our suppliers regarding materials etc. to ensure absolute compliance with regulatory requirements and make sure the product is completely fit for the proposed application.
Q How did you get into the industry?
A At the age of 14 it was my desire to be a rock star or a toy designer. It was difficult to get a job as a rock star so I ended up taking a degree in industrial design. When I left university my first job, which lasted two years, was as a Design Coordinator for a toy company in the West Midlands, specialising in climbing frames and plastic mouldings. Seeing the benefit that a well-designed climbing frame can have on a child’s development was extremely fulfilling. I applied for the role of designing medical devices because I saw it as an opportunity to design items that would give me that similar feeling of achievement, which comes from helping others.
Q What is the best thing about your work?
A If I design a product that helps a doctor or clinician perform his/her job more quickly and easily, this could, in turn, mean more patients can be treated and have a better experience of treatment. The idea that my work helps saves lives is a powerful incentive to develop the best design I can.
Q What do you think is the most important medical device invention ever?
A What a question! Where do you start? Penicillin? Magnetic resonance imaging? The breakthroughs that are occurring in material choice for artificial limbs are extremely interesting, as is all the work being done in the West Midlands’ region regarding intelligent housing. Any innovation that allows the infirm to live as independently as possible has got to be a good thing.
Q What should people give more attention to?
A Infection control! It is encouraging to see the efforts of hospitals and nurses focused on reducing the incidence of infection. As a designer, I try to work as much into our products as possible to help with this. We try to design-out areas that could harbour “bugs” and we are continually researching materials that offer a better defence against infection. More specifically, I recently designed a needle containment device with extra features to protect nurses and clinicians from needle stick. Nothing, however, can substitute for hospital personnel’s time and effort.
Q What is the most exciting development on the horizon?
A For the company, its new total parenteral nutrition pump is an exciting prospect. It gives us an opportunity to do what we are really good at, but also adds much to our portfolio. I have even had the chance to do some fashion design during this project by developing a travel case for the device. This is another way to design-in aspects that will hopefully enhance the user’s quality of life and, with expert material advice, combat infection.
Q What do you want from your suppliers?
A Help, knowledge and expertise. We never pretend to be, for example, injection moulders, thus we need our suppliers to share with us their expertise to achieve the most cost-effective and best made device possible. We need to be able to trust our suppliers and be confident that they understand the importance of medical components and the different requirements they demand. The best suppliers I have worked with recently have not only offered competitive pricing, but also suggested solutions and offered extras that the company may not have considered. This kind of support is really appreciated.
is a Design Engineer at Kimal plc
Sherwood Road, Aston Fields, Bromsgrove