Client: Pure Ability Limited
Functional prototypes are an essential part of any product development process. Sensagest® is an accessible nurse call system designed to be used in spinal injury hospitals, care homes and the home of people with spinal injuries and other conditions limiting movement.
Sensagest® combines state of the art touch sensitive technology with advanced gesture recognition software, enabling patients to control domestic equipment in their environment. This not only enhances the quality of life for the patient, but also benefits the health care provider. The gesture-sensing interface replaces the traditional button interface which is frequently difficult to use for a person with limited control over their finger movement, for example those with spinal cord injuries, arthritis and the elderly. The product won a prize for Best Patient Independence Innovation in addition to the overall prize in the Bone and Joint Innovation category in the Medical Futures Innovation Awards 2007, a national showcase of clinical and commercial excellence in the UK.
Amalgam were approached by the designers of the device with a range of problems. Producing functional prototypes of the base station and remote pager was a regular, straight-forward task for our vacuum casting facility, high-gloss white casings were mated to soft green elastomer seals and buttons and an infrared transparent window then wrapped around the circuit boards to provide fully functional test units. But this left the challenge of the sensor pad itself. This needed to be flexible, hygienic and durable. Incorporate electronics into a washable sealed pad and, like the other two items, be fully functional. Using metal-filled epoxy resin for the tooling and after some careful testing we produced a sandwich of neoprene with a smart fabric sensor pad sealed within. A flexible elastomer frame, colour-matched to the soft parts of the other units gave the pad stability and tied the three units together visually.
We approached Amalgam with an unusual problem, one that could not be solved by a simple off-the-shelf tooling procedure. We needed to encapsulate a delicate state of-the-art fabric sensor using a method that would waterproof the sensor, adhere to rigorous medical standards whilst providing a tactile and pleasing user experience. What impressed me most about Amalgam was that I felt they would be able to do this despite the awkwardness of our requirements. Pure Ability Ltd is now able to move forward and complete the clinical trials.
Ian Anderson, Managing Director, Pure Ability Ltd