News from Arrotek

Documenting User Needs – Key Questions You Need to Answer

by Ger O'Carroll

In a previous article, we outlined the importance of identifying and documenting user needs when designing a new medical device product. In that article, we looked at the two objectives you must achieve when documenting user needs:

  1. Defining the intended use of your new medical device product
  2. Defining the indication for use of your medical device product

This sounds straightforward enough but when you go through it in practice, the process can be quite tricky, not least because documenting it is a regulatory requirement.

So, how do you create the above definitions to complete the process of documenting user needs? An effective approach is to ask and answer a series of questions about your product including how and when it will be used, and who will use it.

Questions to Ask When Documenting User Needs

Here are some examples of the questions you should ask. This is not an exhaustive list, and some may not apply to your product, but they will give you an indication of the process you must go through.

  • What does the product do?
  • What conditions, symptoms, and diseases is the product designed for?
  • Is the product designed to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat, or cure?
  • Who will benefit from the product? When considering this question, think about the condition, disease, or symptoms the beneficiary suffers from, even if those conditions, diseases, or symptoms are not directly related to the product. Also think about things like age and gender as well as other defining characteristics.
  • Who will use your product?
  • Is the user of the product different to the person benefiting, i.e. is the user a medical professional or other third-party, or does the patient use the product on themselves? If the user is different from the beneficiary, who will be using your product?
  • When will the product be used?
  • In what circumstances will the product be used? For example, will it be used under clinical supervision, in a sterile environment, in an emergency situation, etc? Think of the environment, the people who will be involved, other people who might be nearby, etc.
  • Will the user use all the product’s features?
  • What are the stages the user will go through in order to use the product, i.e. remove packaging, remove safety features, prime the device, etc?
  • How will the user interact with the product?
  • If the user and the patient are different people, how will the patient interact with the product?
  • How long will these interactions last?
  • Does the product interact with other devices? What are the implications of that interaction?
  • How often will the patient need to use the product?
  • Will the patient use the product multiple times, or will they require a new product for each use?
  • If the product can be used multiple times, is there a maximum, or recommended maximum, number of uses?
  • How will used versions of the product be safely disposed of?

Documenting User Needs

Remember, you shouldn’t just think about the answers to these questions. Instead, you should also document your answers, so you have a record.

Don’t worry about the wording you use or the thoroughness of your answers. The key is to demonstrate and provide proof of the thought process that went into defining the user needs that your new medical device product addresses.

If you have an idea for a new medical device product and would like to speak to one of the product design and development experts on our team, contact us at Arrotek today.

How Design Changes Impact Medical Device Product Development Costs and Time to Market

by Ger O'Carroll

You have an idea for a new medical device – this is the starting point for all new product development projects. Where the project goes from there, however, the costs involved, and the timeline depends on a range of factors.

Examples include the complexity of the product, availability of funding, regulatory issues, medical trials, and more. Unfortunately, you have limited control over many of these factors.

That said, there is another factor that can have a substantial impact on the cost of product design as well as the time it takes to bring your new medical device to market. As an innovator, inventor, or entrepreneur with an idea for a new medical device, you do have significant influence over this factor.

Design Changes – a Necessary Part of New Medical Device Product Design

The factor we are talking about is design changes. This can be anything from superficial visual tweaks to major changes in how the product works or is used.

Making design changes is not only a part of the product design process – it is an essential part.

After all, an iterative design process is crucial to improving your product and ensuring it performs according to its intended use.

In other words, design changes to improve your product are important to making the product a success.

Crucially, however, the impact of design changes on development costs and timescales differs substantially depending on when those design changes take place.

The Earlier the Better

There is a well-known cost of design changes graph in the product design industry. It shows the potential cost difference of making design changes at various stages of a product’s lifecycle. Here is a representation of the image:

Cost of design changes graph

In summary, the later you make a change in the design of your product, the greater the cost.

We’re not talking small increases in cost here, either, as changes after the design is frozen and production tooling has been created can be thousands of times more expensive than making a change in the concept stage of the product’s development.

Impact on Time to Market of Late-Stage Design Changes

In addition to the cost implications, the later a design change occurs, the more work has to be redone. The change request could impact other aspects of the medical device too, meaning those aspects will also have to be reworked.

For example, a component might have to be redesigned to facilitate the design change but redesigning this component might also necessitate the redesigning of other components. This adds time to the development process.

In addition, design changes often mean new 3D models or CAD drawings have to be created. New prototypes of the product will have to be produced too if the design change request comes in after the prototyping stage.

It’s also likely the product will need to go through the verification process again and may even need re-validated. This causes further delays.

It’s easy in these situations for a product development timescale to drift by weeks or even months.

The Solution – and the Influence You Have

The straightforward solution to preventing these problems from occurring is to make decisions as early in the design process as possible.

At Arrotek, we have a six-step product design process to facilitate this decision-making. The aim is to establish an iterative design process, provide you with expertise from our design engineers, and encourage your feedback.

The process also involves getting sign-off at each step before moving forward to the next one, eliminating the unnecessary reworking of elements and the time delays that result.

Our experienced product design project managers lead the six-step process as we turn your idea into a working product. You play a critical role, however, particularly in relation to ensuring decisions are made early and are then adhered to.

By following this approach, you will keep a cap on design and development costs, and you will keep to your schedule for bringing the product to market.

Come Visit Our Stand at Medical Technology Ireland 2019

by Arrotek Medical Ltd

Medical Technology Ireland 2019 is taking place in Galway next week. We have a stand at the exhibition and would love to see you there. You can meet members of our team, find out more about what we do, and discuss how we can turn your idea for a medical device into a reality.

Medical Technology Ireland 2019

 

Medical Technology Ireland features over 200 exhibitors and an extensive conference programme. It takes place next Wednesday and Thursday, 25 and 26 September, at Galway Racecourse.

You can register to get free entry to Medical Technology Ireland 2019 on the exhibition’s website.

Make sure you then come to visit our team – we’ll be at Stand 211.

What You Need to Know About User Needs When Designing a New Medical Device

by Ger O'Carroll

When you first came up with your idea for a new medical device, you probably had a fairly clear picture of how it could help improve health outcomes. In the medical device product design process, this is known as User Needs.

What often happens next, however, is new ideas start to come to mind. For example, you might think of other clinical areas or conditions that your new medical device product could help with. Or you might come up with ideas for alterations you could potentially make to the product further down the road that would make it even more beneficial.

This is all before you’ve seen a concept drawing let alone a physical prototype.

The Importance of Documenting User Needs

The above is why identifying, defining, and properly documenting User Needs is so important.

Firstly, it helps focus the medical device product design and development process, ensuring it is as efficient and effective as possible.

Defining User Needs also improves the quality and performance of the product that is ultimately developed, and it aids the regulatory approval process.

Understanding User Needs

In a previous blog, we looked at Quality Systems and design controls. Defining User Needs is an essential part of the design controls you put in place within your Quality System.

The central focus of doing this is that you need to be able to prove your new medical device product does what you claim it does and is suitable for its intended uses.

This brings us to two phrases you are likely to encounter during the medical device product design process: intended use and indications for use. As part of documenting User Needs, you will need to define both.

The Intended Use of Your New Medical Device Product

This involves describing the specific purpose of your new medical device product and what it does.

Importantly, however, you should not include things your new product could be used for. Instead, concentrate solely on the primary use you envisage.

The Indications for Use of Your Medical Device Product

Defining the indications for use of your medical device product involves outlining the situations, circumstances, diseases, and/or conditions where your product can be used to treat, mitigate, diagnose, cure, or prevent.

It’s also important you describe the patient group you are designing the medical device product for.

Why It’s Important to Define User Needs

We’ve already touched on this above, i.e. defining User Needs prevents drift in the design process and it reduces the risk of going off on tangents.

Staying focused on developing a product specifically aimed at addressing the defined User Needs also keeps the development process on track and improves the quality of the finished product.

We also mentioned the regulatory approval process above.

To understand this further, have a look at the image below.

Design control waterfall diagram

This is from the Design Control Guidance for Medical Device Manufacturers document published by the FDA in the US.

It is known in the industry as the design control waterfall diagram.

And at the top of the waterfall is… User Needs.

So, the User Needs definition leads to design inputs, the design process, and the design outputs (concepts, drawings, 3D models, prototypes, etc). Verification then takes place with the design process continuing through as many iterations as required before the final medical device product is finalised.

This final product is then validated based on the defined User Needs.

In other words:

  • Does the product perform according to its intended use definition?
  • Is it suitable for the situations you described when identifying its indications for use?
  • Can you prove both of the above?

As you can see, defining User Needs is a crucial early step in the medical device design process. Your development team will be able to help with this step but in a future blog we’ll look at how to document User Needs.

Understanding Process Validation in Medical Device Product Design

by Ger O'Carroll

If you have looked into the steps involved to design and develop a new medical device product, you are likely to have come across the term process validation.

It’s an essential term and concept to understand as it helps ensure your design, develop, and then manufacture a product that meets the needs of end-users – usually patients or customers. Process validation is also crucial to getting regulatory approval for your product.

What Is Process Validation?

Process validation takes place throughout the product’s entire lifecycle, starting during the design stage. It involves collecting and then evaluating data to prove the product produced is high-quality, repeatable, consistent, and meets the needs of end-users.

The Difference Between Process Validation and Verification

Another term you may have come across is verification. It is also important and is another requirement of regulators. Understanding the basic difference between the two terms – process validation and verification – can help with grasping the concept of process validation.

In basic terms, verification involves assessing whether a manufactured medical device product, or a component of a product, meets the defined specification. So, it involves physically inspecting the product to check the material, tolerance levels, dimensions, etc. This is then compared to confirm everything is within the defined parameters.

This doesn’t tell you if the product meets the needs of end-users, however. All it tells you is the product was manufactured to the intended standard.

Furthermore, verification becomes cumbersome when you have a complex medical device with multiple parts as it can be hard to verify each part.

For example, with verification, you might be able to confirm a tube and a handle are individually manufactured according to specification, but you can’t confirm that the handle and tube won’t detach during use, leaving the tube inside a patient. Process validation, however, can confirm this.

That said, verification is still important. Regulators offer guidance on when it is appropriate to use verification and when you should use process validation instead.

Process Validation in the Design Stage

Process validation happens firstly in the design and development stages of a new medical device product. Continued process validation then takes place once the product is in production and is being sold in the market.

In the design stage, process validation typically happens once the design of the product is locked down.

A crucial part of process validation is to use DFM (Design for Manufacturing) principles. DFM is about ensuring the product can be efficiently and cost-effectively manufactured. In many respects, therefore, the objectives of process validation and DFM are aligned.

At Arrotek, our services include:

  • Designing and developing medical device products
  • Manufacturing medical device products

Sometimes the products we manufacture are designed elsewhere. This has given us detailed insight into how bad design, where DFM is ignored, impacts product quality which, in turn, makes process validation more difficult.

By way of example, one of the things we do at Arrotek during the process validation stage of a design project is to reduce to a minimum the number of components and process steps it takes to manufacture a product.

This is not only good DFM practice, but it also reduces the possibility of things going wrong with the product during use, i.e. it helps ensure the product meets the needs of end-users, which is the goal of process validation.

The Best Approach

From your point of view, the key is to work with a medical device design company that has skills, experience, and knowledge in several crucial areas. This includes:

  • Medical device product design and development
  • Obtaining regulatory approval
  • Quality, including the implementation of quality systems
  • Manufacturing

This will make process validation more straightforward and it will ensure you get a better quality and more fit for purpose product.

How Long Does It Take to Design a New Medical Device Product?

by Ger O'Carroll

A question we are often asked at Arrotek is how long it takes to design a new medical device product. Knowing this helps entrepreneurs and businesses plan future steps, including those that come after the product is designed, including putting the product through clinical trials.

The problem with answering the question of how long medical device design takes is that it is variable.

The simple answer is three to six months.

To understand further, it helps to explain our process, the things that can cause delays, and how we mitigate those delays.

How We Work

At Arrotek, we put a schedule in place when we begin a new medical device design project. This includes the various stages of the process, with each stage requiring sign-off from the client.

A project manager will also be assigned to your project who will keep in regular touch to ensure you are updated. This is usually via a weekly telephone or conference call.

The project manager will also present the design work at the completion of each stage. A PowerPoint presentation is typically used in these meetings. You will be required to make a decision (to select a concept idea to move forward with, for example), give feedback, and/or sign-off the stage so the design team working on your project can move to the next one.

Crucially, if there are any issues that cause schedule slippages from our side, we communicate with you immediately to ensure you know as soon as possible.

Causes for Delay

In the vast majority of projects, however, schedule slippages where we encounter an issue at Arrotek are rare. There are other factors, however, that can, if not properly addressed, cause a project to fall behind schedule. The two most common are:

  • Inefficient approval processes
  • Going off on tangents

Streamlining the Approvals Process

Getting approval from you as the client is essential to ensuring the project stays on track. This is because it eliminates the risk of us having to go back to make changes because of something you are not happy with.

That said, the approvals process itself can introduce delays to a project. This is particularly the case when there are several people involved in the process. It is exacerbated further when some of those people cannot attend a presentation by the engineer managing your project.

As a result, we will discuss with you at the outset ways we can streamline the approvals process and make it as efficient as possible.

Staying Focused

At Arrotek, our clients include creative, innovative, and inspiring entrepreneurs who come up with fantastic ideas. Designing a medical device product, however, requires focus on specific requirements. Therefore, new ideas introduced during the design stage slow the process down.

One of the first things we do, therefore, is to define the project’s requirements. This helps our design and engineering teams to maintain focus and deliver according to the agreed schedule.

Successful Project Delivery

There are variables that impact all medical device design projects. At Arrotek, however, we have tried and tested methods, developed over many years, that ensure the successful delivery of the projects we work on. This includes keeping projects on schedule.

Benefits of an Iterative Design Process

by Ger O'Carroll

The best approach to developing a new medical device product is to use an iterative design process. Iterative design is a methodology used to create products in all industries, from physical products to software. What is iterative design, however, and what are the benefits?

What is Iterative Design?

Iterative design involves the development of a new medical device product using a cyclical process. This involves bringing the design to a certain point and then analysing, evaluating, testing, and getting feedback on that design.

This is all fed back to the design team to inform and shape the next stages of the process before repeating the cycle again.

Those stages include the basic concept stage, 3D modelling, and the creation of prototypes.

Why Use Iterative Design When Developing a New Medical Device Product?

An iterative design process ensures the product you want to develop goes through constant refinement and improvement as it is being designed. It involves multiple members of the design team working on your product.

At Arrotek, for example, we have people who specialise in various fields who contribute at crucial stages of our iterative design process.

An iterative design approach also involves you as the client.

In addition, it’s important the iterative design process starts at the very beginning of the development of a new medical device product. This is because changes are easiest and the least expensive to make when you identify and implement them at the beginning of a project.

The further into the development you go, the more expensive alterations become, even if the change is minor.

Benefits of Using Iterative Design

If you have an idea for a new medical device product, an iterative design approach to its development will deliver a range of benefits. This includes:

  • Highlights and helps to resolve misunderstandings, expectation issues, and requirement inconsistencies as early in the process as possible
  • Helps to ensure the product is fit for purpose and meets its functionality, usability, and reliability objectives
  • Speeds up the design process, particularly of complex medical device products
  • Keeps the design team focused on critical issues, helping them avoid distractions and diversions
  • Improves the safety of the product
  • Identifies previously unpredicted user behaviours which can lead to design changes. These user behaviours are almost impossible to spot without the 3D models and physical prototypes that are part of the iterative design process.
  • Essential in the optimisation of DFM (Design for Manufacturing) which, in turn, ensures your product can be efficiently and cost-effectively manufactured at scale
  • Identifies a range of usability and practical issues that are hard to identify early in the product design process without using an iterative approach.
  • Ensures you are fully aware and up to date with the progress of the design and how your medical device idea is starting to shape up in reality
  • Reduces the amount of reworking required, particularly in relation to clients not being happy with the design. As mentioned above, you as the client should be involved in the iterative design process from the very beginning, giving feedback and signing off on the design as it progresses through the various stages. By using this approach, major reworking of the product is avoided, reducing the overall design time.
  • Helps ensure the product design process adheres to regulations by, for example, improving design control documentation

Get More Information

The specifics of an iterative design process depend on a range of factors including how you want to work, who is involved in the approval process, and the nature of the medical device product you want to develop.

To find out more about how those specifics relate to you, please contact us at Arrotek today.

Press Release: Sligo-Based Medical Device Specialist Arrotek Doubles Its Cleanroom Production Facilities

by Arrotek Medical Ltd

Press Release

1 August 2019

Arrotek, the Sligo-based medical device specialist, has completed its move to a new purpose-built facility that includes significantly expanded cleanroom production capacity.

Arrotek specialises in bridging the gap between an idea or concept for a new medical device and bringing that medical device to market. Its expertise includes designing, developing, and manufacturing medical device products, and its clients include medical professionals, entrepreneurs, and MedTech companies from around the world.

The company was bought by Galt Medical in May 2019. Galt Medical is the US-based medical device company that is part of the Theragenics Corporation.

Arrotek’s new, purpose-built design and production facility is in Finisklin IDA Park in Sligo. This location is known as being the heart of the life sciences industry in the North West of Ireland.

Work on the new 50,000 sq. ft. building began towards the end of 2018, with the Arrotek team moving in ahead of schedule in the middle of July. The move is now complete, and the new building is fully operational.

Arrotek has doubled its cleanroom capacity at its new location, enhancing the level of service it offers to customers. The new cleanroom facilities include a dedicated Class 7 (10,000) room for assembly and packaging activities and a dedicated Class 8 (100,000) room for all moulding.

Sligo-Based Medical Device Specialist Arrotek Doubles Its Cleanroom Production Facilities

Cleanroom facilities at Arrotek

Ger O’Carroll, co-founder and Co-Managing Director of Arrotek, said: “The move to our new location went smoothly and we are delighted to announce that our new production cleanrooms have passed all in-use operational qualifications and are now fully up and running.

“This increased production capacity and dedicated cleanroom facilities are a significant step forward in our development at Arrotek. The new facilities will enable us to further expand and improve the service we offer to our customers and allow us to continue designing, developing, and manufacturing medical devices that improve health outcomes and quality of life for patients all over the world.

“Being in this location in Sligo is important to us too. The medical device industry has expanded considerably in this region since we launched Arrotek back in 2005, and it continues to grow. Ireland’s North West, with Sligo at its heart, is an important part of Ireland’s medical device sector.

“We look forward to welcoming our current and new customers to visit and tour our new facilities to see how we can help them meet their future production needs.”

FDA Medical Device Classifications Explained

by Ger O'Carroll

To sell a medical device product in the US, you need approval from the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration). A key part of getting FDA approval is the classification of your medical device.

Not only will the classification determine much of the design and development process, it will also determine what is required to get approval. This is because the process for getting FDA approval differs depending on the classification of your medical device.

This is very similar to the system in the EU. We covered the EU medical device classification system in a previous blog. In this one, we will concentrate on getting regulatory approval for the US market.

FDA Medical Device Classifications for the US Market

The US has three classifications for medical device products: Class I, Class II, and Class III. As in the EU, the process for determining the classification of a medical device is based on risk, while the classification itself determines what you need to do to bring the product to market.

  • Class I – as with EU regulations, this classification is for the lowest risk medical devices, i.e. surgical caps, toothbrushes, crutches, etc.
  • Class II – this classification is for higher risk medical devices such as catheters, ECG machines, syringes, etc.
  • Class III – Class III is for the highest risk medical device products such as defibrillators, implanted prosthesis, heart valves, etc.

Class I Medical Devices

There is no requirement to notify the FDA when bringing a Class I medical device to the US market. Instead, you must adhere to the FDA’s General Controls. This includes complying with good manufacturing practice, listing requirements, and more.

In fact, all medical device products in the US must comply with the FDA’s General Controls.

Class II Medical Devices

The process of bringing a Class II medical device product to market is more involved and more time-consuming than with Class I medical devices. This is because, in general, Class II medical device products need to go through the FDA’s Premarket Notification application process.

The Premarket Notification process involves showing your medical device is equivalent to another medical device that already has regulatory approval. This equivalence demonstrates the safety and effectiveness of your product.

However, the FDA also produces a list of common Class II medical devices which don’t require Premarket Notification. Instead, they must adhere to the regulator’s other requirements for these types of devices. If your product falls within the scope of this list, getting it to market in the US is much simpler.

Class III Medical Devices

The process for getting FDA approval for a Class III medical device is much more rigorous than with products in the other two categories. This is because Class III medical devices must go through a Premarket Approval process.

The Premarket Approval process is significantly different from the Premarket Notification requirements for Class II medical devices.

In the Premarket Approval process, your medical device will need to go through rigorous study and testing to determine both its effectiveness and its safety. This process can – and often does – include clinical trials.

Getting Approval in Multiple Jurisdictions

Most entrepreneurs, medical professionals, and companies with an idea for a new medical device have the objective that it will be sold and used in multiple countries. High up on the priority list is usually the US and EU markets.

Therefore, it’s important you work with a medical device design and development team that understands both US and EU medical device classifications and regulations, in addition to regulations in other major jurisdictions around the world.

This is what you get with us at Arrotek. Contact us today to find out more.

EU Medical Device Classifications Explained

by Ger O'Carroll

Not all medical devices are the same. Some are non-sterile and pose minimal risk to patients, while others are implanted in the body and carry a high risk. Therefore, regulations for medical devices must distinguish between the different types, setting appropriate requirements for regulatory approval depending on risk. Regulators do this with a classification system.

In other words, understanding the classification that your new medical device falls under is a crucial step in the design and development process. The classification will inform how the development progresses as well as the steps required to obtain regulatory approval.

EU vs US Regulations

In the EU, new EU regulations, known as the new EU Medical Device Regulations, or MDR, are coming into force. One of the main changes in the new regulations involves different rules on the way medical devices are classified.

If you have gone through the process of designing and developing a medical device before, you might find it different with the new EU MDR. For example, the medical device you want to develop might now fall into a higher classification.

If you are going through the process for the first time, however, the changes in EU regulations will have less of an impact. One exception to this is the fact the new EU MDR brings the classification of medical devices in Europe more in line with international regulations. This includes FDA regulations which apply in the US.

There are still some differences, particularly in relation to how you get regulatory approval in the EU compared to the US, but the closer alignment of the two systems has simplified many aspects.

We’ll look at the classification system in the US in more detail in a future blog. The focus here is on medical device classifications in the new EU MDR.

EU MDR Medical Device Classifications

The classification system for medical devices under the new EU MDR is based on risk. The level of risk the medical device presents determines which classification it falls under. This classification then tells you:

  • Whether a conformity assessment is required to ensure it meets MDR requirements; and,
  • If a conformity assessment is required, how that should be done.

If a conformity assessment is required, it must be conducted by a Notified Body, i.e. an independent certification organisation authorised – i.e. notified – by an EU member state.

There are three main classifications for medical devices: Class I, Class II, and Class III. In addition, there are sub-classes such as, for example, Class IIb and Class IIa.

Most medical devices, however, will fall into the following risk classes:

  • Class I – this classification is for the lowest risk medical devices such as wheelchairs, glasses, stethoscopes, etc. Most medical devices in this category do not require a conformity assessment. Instead, they can be self-assessed. The exceptions are Class I medical devices which are reusable surgical instruments, are supplied sterile, or have a measuring function. A notified body is required to certify these types of medical device.
  • Class IIa – this classification is for medium risk medical devices. An example is a surgical clamp. A conformity assessment by a notified body is required for this classification of medical device.
  • Class IIb – this classification is for higher risk medical devices or medical devices classed as a medium-to-high risk. A bone fixation plate is one example. Again, Class IIb medical devices require a conformity assessment.
  • Class III – this classification is for the highest risk medical devices and requires a conformity assessment. Examples include pacemakers and heart valves.

Determining the Classification of Your Medical Device

One of the first things that is required when designing and developing a new medical device for the EU market is to determine its classification. Working with an engineering design and development team with knowledge and experience in this area streamlines the regulatory approval process and ensures the development starts on the right track.