• Health in your hands: a big lesson in designing small medical devices

    • Professional portrait of Dylann Ceriani

      What if you could go to the grocery store and, next to the pregnancy tests, find a test that indicates the likelihood you have had a mild heart attack? Dylann Ceriani (pictured right) gets to ask these types of questions – and find the answers – in her job as Director of Engineering and Principal Product Development Engineer at Symbient, a leading product-development firm for medical and life science devices.

      Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) devices may transform medicine as we know it. The technology that’s currently available in diabetes test strips and pregnancy tests has the power to advance global health in meaningful ways. First, by providing answers at the point of care, LOC speeds the track to treatment. Second, LOC enables patients and providers to communicate through portals and remote monitoring, removing barriers to care. Finally, on-demand diagnostics help patients feel empowered to play a more active role in their health care – and communities can help meet clinical needs quickly and inexpensively with early diagnosis.

      Stacie Depner (pictured below), Engineering Program Director at Symbient, has seen the power of LOC firsthand: “I’ve been in the medical industry for 19 years. I’ve seen a shift toward home and individual healthcare. It makes people feel empowered.”

      But while LOC devices promise a powerful new care model – the road to revolution is far from easy. The product development cycle, which includes integration, cost and regulatory clearance can significantly curb the advancement of these devices. That’s why – as Dylann and Stacie can attest – creative collaboration is key.

    • Professional portrait of Stacie Depner

      Try, try again

      A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into designing these small-but-mighty devices, and myriad components hold the devices together – from adhesives to liners to films.

      Trial and error are paramount.

      “Assays [the part of the device where the testing takes place] have strict biocompatibility requirements,” Dylann explains, “The adhesives on laminates can leech into the assays and destroy the exact information we're looking for.” She credits 3M with understanding these complexities and offering solutions that make prototyping easier.

      The secret? More small samples.

      Dylann and her team can take more risks with less waste. It’s also one of the reasons 3M created FindMyAdhesive – a free, online tool that helps engineers like Dylann find the right adhesive or material for their device. Designers answer a few questions and get a custom list of adhesive recommendations with specification information and technical data. Then, the designer can connect with a 3M expert to get the right samples for their innovation.