Three experts at Kaleidoscope share their knowledge about four critical spaces onsite that we use every day in the product design and development process. Aaron Crookes, Ben Ko and Tom Meyer, all engineers at Kaleidoscope, offer an inside look at the places and spaces that give us an edge in creating products for our business partners that both expand their markets and benefit their end users.

Room #1: The Model Shop

product design and developmentCentrally located in our downtown Cincinnati headquarters, the model shop is where we do all of our prototype fabrication. Sometimes clients expect us to turn around quick proof-of-feasibility prototypes. Other times they want polished, commercial-like devices to show off at conferences. Our model shop handles both ends of the spectrum and allows us to scale up or down effectively to meet those client needs.

The model shop houses all of the tools needed to make that happen: drill presses, a band saw, blades, grinders, sanding material and Dremels, to name a few. It contains everything we would need to build and assemble prototypes for client projects.

product design and development“Almost every project that we have goes through the model shop,” says Crookes. “If there is any prototyping involved, there is a good chance it will touch the model shop and the 3D printer room at some point.”

The model shop enables us to best serve clients through the early to middle prototyping phases. We take care of all assembly in this space.

“There is always someone using the model shop,” notes Crookes. “I would say it’s really rare that it is not being used by anyone.”

Room #2: The 3D Printer Lab

3D printing has revolutionized our design process, allowing us to iterate faster. Our 3D printer lab hosts a range of printers:

  • product design and development8 filament printers for very quick plastic printing prototyping at a low cost. These printers have the benefit of printing in true materials such as PLA, ABS and nylon.
  • 1 Objet30 Pro that allows us to create high-resolution and high-quality polypropylene-like parts for high-fidelity prototypes.
  • 1 Form2 printer that enables us to create high-resolution and high-quality parts for high-fidelity prototypes. The Form allows us to print a range of materials, including transparent, flexible, ABS-like and polypropylene-like parts.

product design and developmentThe printers in the 3D printer lab are all linked to a central computer with software designed for maximizing the quality of the print. At any given time we may have 10 different print jobs running.

“It has really changed the way that we develop and prototype,” says Meyer. “Now we can talk about design in the morning, draw it in CAD [computer-assisted design] in the afternoon, print it that evening, and then by the next morning we’re ready to test it.”

Having so many 3D printers utilized onsite enables us to adjust more easily to our business partners’ needs and minimizes the time involved in us creating a prototype and finding out how it actually works.

product design and development“We’re turning around parts in the same day and testing multiple iterations,” explains Meyer, “so it’s really changed how quickly we can iterate and test on a project; it’s not uncommon for us to be cycling through prototypes and whole build test cycles within a week.”

The length of time it takes to create an object in the 3D printers can range from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on the object’s size. At Kaleidoscope, we can print parts from small, detailed pieces that are being tested for surgical procedures to multiple components that can fit together to make helmets, fixtures or other larger pieces of equipment.

product design and developmentAnd the importance of that capability for a design and development firm like Kaleidoscope cannot be understated.

“Any time you’re making a physical thing, the ability to actually have that thing – to hold, to test, to evaluate – whether it’s for functional testing or whether it’s for gauging aesthetic, feel, size – that is invaluable.”

(See also Staff Engineering Designer John Burke’s article on the value of rapid prototyping.)

Room #3: The Wet Lab

product design and developmentThe wet lab is a space where we can work with and test devices using tissues, chemicals and other substances we feel more comfortable keeping separate from the general prototyping and model shop.

We built the wet lab specifically to handle tissues for testing purposes, which is often – but not always – surgical testing. More specifically, utilization of the tissues in this space allows us to very quickly design and iterate a device, idea or system. Ultimately, we can then provide our business partners with a more precise device before we engage surgeons, and therefore have a more refined base line.

product design and developmentThe focal point of the wet lab is a surgical microscope, as well as steel benches we can operate on as needed. However, Ko adds that the wet lab also contains surgical supplies as well as more delicate instrumentation like a mass balance, high magnification microscopes and force gauges that we use to assess devices and prototypes.

“In addition to tissue testing, it has effectively turned into our more delicate measurement lab,” says Ko. “The wet lab fluxes a little bit, meaning if a project doesn’t call for as much surgical use, we can still use the lab effectively for other needs.”

The onsite wet lab allows us to move much more quickly than would be the case otherwise. In the medical device world, wet labs are something of a hot commodity. They are scheduled months ahead of time, everyone has major deadlines, they are typically very expensive to use, tissues need to be obtained and the surgeon’s and the entire team’s time is extremely important (and costly).

product design and development“Having a wet lab allows us to lower that hurdle to getting real testing data much more quickly and much more cheaply, and at higher frequency intervals,” says Ko. “This allows us to move extremely quickly for our clients and allows us to go into those more major wet lab milestones – the really expensive ones – with a much higher probability of success, not only from a device perspective but also from an organizational or logistics perspective.”

With the wet lab in conjunction with our other onsite capabilities, the team can quickly iterate on a design, draw it in CAD, print it on one of our 3D printers, take it to the wet lab and practice it in surgery, determine what works or doesn’t work, and take it back to CAD to repeat the entire process.

product design and development“We have extremely tight procedures on what it takes to set up a wet lab to be successful, such as video recording, checklists for all of the supplies, processes to make sure everything works ahead of time – all outside of basically what the surgeon is actually going to be testing, which is your one device,” says Ko. “You want to remove all of the distractions from that, if possible. Going through this process so many times allows us to become extremely comfortable with running those kinds of labs. Our clients have really benefitted from that.”

(See the press release about our onsite wet lab.)

Room #4: The Electromechanical Lab

product design and developmentThe newest of the facilities, the electromechanical lab is a clean, ESD-free (free of electrostatic discharge) room where we work on electrical prototyping for our business partners.

The electromechanical lab allows us to integrate new capabilities into our projects, including: motor automation and control, sensing, communication, controller integration and more.

product design and developmentThe lab houses various power sources, scopes, a logic analyzer, soldering equipment, DAQ devices, and other basic equipment required to make these capabilities a reality. Also included is a computer with LabVIEW and different development software so we can write our own firmware and conduct our own test protocols for validity.

Great care and planning went into designing this space.

product design and development“One of the biggest factors to consider was electrostatic discharge reduction,” Crookes elaborates. “When you walk around in a carpeted office, for instance, you can build up a static charge in your fingers, which can easily kill a circuit. So everything in here is electrically grounded; there should be no discharge from a person to the thing that they’re working on.” Creating a dedicated room just for working with delicate electronics opens up the types of projects Kaleidoscope can take on.

product design and developmentOther room design considerations included maximization of space, good lighting and also the ability to darken a room as needed, a small protective chamber used with projects requiring high-speed motors, and the capability for collaboration (i.e. installing a large table where multiple people can sit together and debug a project and both have access to a computer screen, an oscilloscope and other tools). Some important features of the room that make all of this possible are electrically grounded mats, grounded tables with ESD-reducing wristbands, and discharge-reducing pads under the flooring.

Less Visible Capabilities That Save Money, Time and Complications

product design and developmentSome prospective clients may be surprised by the extent of our capabilities in a downtown office building.

“It seems like every company we work with on the client side is surprised that we have this capability,” explains Ko regarding the wet lab. “Many of them know we have an office downtown, and in a typical office building that isn’t something you would expect to have the capability of doing.

product design and development“Culturally, for our medical device clients, it’s not always expected that the design firm will have the ability or desire to do [tissue testing in-house]. It’s something that I think we not only have a desire for, but are very good at doing. It’s something that is surprising to a lot of clients.”

At Kaleidoscope, the combination of our people with each of our onsite facilities empowers us to meet the needs of our healthcare and medical, consumer goods, and high-tech and electronic business partners.

About the Interviewees

product design and developmentBen Ko
Design Engineer, Kaleidoscope

Ben savors the collaboration that biomedical engineering offers as every project brings together physicians, patients, designers and engineers to solve complex problems. Ben’s background includes three years at AtriCure, where he worked on cryogenic surgical devices for cardiac surgery. During his time there, Ben learned the importance of understanding the end user before designing products. Ben strives to implement patient-centric design – that is, “bedside-to-bench-to-bedside” – in all of his work. In his spare time, Ben enjoys Cincinnati’s breweries with friends and hammering on steel as a novice blacksmith.

product design and developmentTom Meyer
Design Engineer, Kaleidoscope

With his concentration in biomedical engineering, Tom can talk fluently with doctors, designers and engineers. Through his two-term co-op at Atricure, a healthcare and medical-device company, he gained an understanding of cardiac surgical equipment and multi-disciplinary teams. His passion is to make devices safer and more efficacious. Outside of work, Tom loves to rock out on his cello.

product design and developmentAaron Crookes
Design Engineer, Kaleidoscope

Aaron graduated from Miami University in both biomedical engineering and physics. His passion centers on creating novel solutions to challenging problems. Before joining the Kaleidoscope team, he gained relevant experience through product development work for Keystone Development and a co-op at Coltene Whaledent, Inc. Aaron believes Kaleidoscope is a cohesive ensemble of multidisciplinary employees who work hard to excel because we realize the positive impact that our products have on the world. Ultimately, his philosophy on innovation and growth can be summarized by Albert Einstein’s quote: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

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