A Comprehensive Guide to Medical Device Industrial Design

While the fundamental elements of medical device design stay largely the same, new processes and practices are enhancing the approach of many medical device manufacturers. These new approaches can make the process faster, more practical, or more aligned with the modern world. In this guide, we explore the process and approaches of  medical device industrial design.

We’ll take a look at what it is, why it helps, and how you can use it to enhance your design before you develop medical devices.


What is Industrial Design?

Industrial design is a creative process used in the design of physical products and services that are intended for mass production. It involves determining and defining a product’s form and features before the manufacturing or production stage.

The point of this approach is to ensure that products are not only functional but also user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. This can not only increase safety, but also enhance the user experience and make customers more likely to enjoy using the product.


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Therefore, industrial design leverages the expertise of designers, scientists, engineers, and business experts. These experts use their combined knowledge to create user-friendly products with mass appeal without compromising engineering integrity and scientific usability.


Why Use Industrial Design For Medical Device Product Design?

We can’t say that anyone truly enjoys having to use a medical device. However, applying the principles of industrial design to medical devices can help make a tough situation easier. It also encourages patients to choose your products over more difficult-to-use or intimidating-looking counterparts.

Usability is also a crucial aspect of a medical device’s effectiveness. If it’s hard to use, the patient is more likely to use it improperly, which can lead to poorer health outcomes. If the device is used by a healthcare practitioner instead of a patient, usability makes the process more efficient so the practitioner has more time to assist more patients.


An Overview of The Steps Involved in Industrial Design For Medical Devices

As mentioned, the creative industrial design process occurs before medical device product development begins. So, the following steps will not include the manufacturing process itself.


1. Feasibility Testing

Feasibility testing involves verifying that the medical device idea is both economically and functionally feasible. The prospective product’s shape, size, features, and functions are assessed to ensure they align with its intended purpose and market demands.


2. Competitive Analysis

In the context of medical device industrial design, a competitive analysis involves comparing a new product idea against established products on the market. This helps medical device designers determine the uniqueness of the product and the need for its functionality.


3. Market Projection Analysis

A market projection analysis involves identifying the target users and analyzing their reception to similar products. This process helps designers cater the product to its intended users and either avoid past mistakes or implement past successes.

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4. Concept Ideation

Concept Ideation involves 2D and 3D sketching of device ideas based on various design inputs informed by the project’s strategic goals. Ultimately, a design strategy will emerge that best captures the device’s functional characteristics, user friendliness, and aesthetic appeal.


5. Material & Vendor Analysis

After the first 3 steps, the product idea is set to go. Once the design is confirmed, the next step is to conduct a material analysis and identify procurement sources. This involves determining the needed components and locating suitable suppliers. Getting this done early can help avoid delays at later stages during the actual development process.


6. Cost Structuring

This step is not about determining the best price for your product. It’s about assessing your potential material suppliers and selecting the most economically feasible option. This process is a delicate balancing act of sourcing the best quality materials for a cost that ensures the economic viability of the final product.


7. End-User Satisfaction Analysis

The final step is to test and evaluate the proposed product in the setting where it will be used. This is not just about whether the device works in a technical sense, but also about whether it meets the needs and expectations of its intended users.

For example, if the device will be used in a healthcare facility, a test user group of doctors and nurses would be consulted. They would determine whether it would fit well into their workflow and improve upon or ease the tasks it is designed for.

Once all these steps are successfully completed, prototyping and the product development process can begin.


5 Best Practices in Industrial Medical Design


1. Consider Diverse User Groups

While your device will be intended for a target group of users, consider the diversity that exists within that group. For instance, if you’re designing an insulin pump, remember that a senior diabetic patient will not have the same range of mobility as a younger one.

There are also some unexpected areas of diversity to consider. For example, the average adult male’s hand is 1.12 times larger than the average adult female’s hand. Not to mention that this is an average, a wide range of variation exists. Therefore, handheld devices should be designed with this diversity in mind.


2. Prioritize Simplicity & Efficiency

User-centered design is the purpose of industrial design. Medical device usage tends to be task-heavy, so simplicity and efficiency are key to creating a user-friendly device.

The interface should focus on one task at a time and clearly show each step. Essential elements like status, main controls, and navigation should be easy to find and use. Simultaneously, unnecessary information or features can distract the user from the essential process and therefore should be minimal.


3. Ensure Regulatory Compliance From The Start

Regulatory compliance is critical to the medical device design and development process. Without FDA-approval, you won’t be able to bring your device to market at all. Keeping compliance front of mind from the start can help reduce headaches and project delays later.

Make sure you also consider other standards like ISO and IEC in your design. This is especially true if you intend to bring your device to an international market.



4. Consider Legacy Devices

Understand older devices that users are familiar with to increase the usability of your device. Inevitably, newer devices will deviate from their older counterparts, but usage and design shouldn’t be too different.

If the device’s design greatly deviates from the familiar, users will have a harder time learning how to use it. This difficulty increases the risk of accidental misuse and could delay needed processes in urgent situations.


5. Foster a Collaborative Design Process

The industrial design process is and must be collaborative which means it requires design input and expertise from many disciplines. There should be a design leader who manages the process, but they must actively seek ideas from a diverse team.

The ideal team for product design for medical devices may include:

  • Researchers who conduct studies to understand user needs
  • Industrial designers who create product concepts
  • UI designers who create intuitive interfaces for easy interaction
  • UX designers who focus on enhancing the overall user experience
  • Engineers who can confirm the technical feasibility of the device
  • Regulatory specialists who navigate regulatory standards to ensure compliance
  • Project managers who keep the project on schedule and within budget
  • Medical experts who provide vital insights into the medical needs of users
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Leverage Industrial Design Right With Your Medical Products

As you can see, industrial design can bring many advantages to the medical device design process. However, leveraging it effectively can make a significant difference in your success.

RBC Medical Innovations provides comprehensive design and development services to help you with this journey. Advantage Platforms® can also help you simplify your process and help you get your product to market 60% faster.

Bring your vision to life by reaching out to us today.

Need help with your medical device?

Let Vantage MedTech show how to bring your idea from concept to prototype to FDA/CE approval with a free custom project analysis.