Elizabeth Modic

After years in the manufacturing industry, learning the process of designing and manufacturing everything from medical devices to planes, trains, and automobiles, you begin to ask tough questions.

  • Would you fly on the airplane knowing how its parts were made?
  • Would you let a surgeon implant a device in you knowing how many design options were tried?
  • Would you drive the car (or ride in the autonomous one), knowing how safety systems work?
  • Would you buy the automatic hand soap dispenser?

Those involved in designing and manufacturing have their standards and although I don’t design or manufacture anything, I tend to dig a little deeper into the components in an item before I buy. In our cover story this month discussing production of PEEK spinal implants, Nexxt Spine Programmer Beau Riser says: “I would 100%, 1,000% put our implants in my body. That’s basically my rule of thumb if there’s a question on any part. ‘Would I put this in my body?’ If the answer is yes, then I know we are making great implants.”

Sometimes you look at an item and wonder if designers bothered to get input from the end-users at all. I saw this recently with the design of an at-home sleep apnea test kit. Meeting with the polysomnography technician (sleep technician) to learn how my husband would wear the device for the night, she was quick to point out numerous short-comings:

  • It is programmed to automatically start recording at 9pm and run for 12 hours, but there’s no light that shows it’s on or recording
  • You need to fold a flap on the corner of the adhesive tape used to adhere the tubing and wires to the skin, or it won’t come off easily
  • All the plugs and ports are color-coded for easy connection…except for one, so you’ll have to hunt for that port once everything else has been connected

Five nights a week, she uses this equipment and trains patients on how to use it for at-home sleep studies yet has no input on how the system works or what could be improved – and she has suggestions.

For me, it was an automatic hand soap dispenser for my kitchen sink. As I scoured the Internet for a replacement, I found myself reading the minutest of its design details to make sure it was better and sturdier than the one that had just bit the dust. I looked at the overall design, details about the motor, but what finally sold me on it were the upgrades. To avoid water or soap from entering the battery housing, accessed from the bottom of the dispenser, designers added a cover with an O-ring seal. So now splashes of water or errant soap spray can’t enter and corrode the batteries. The design met my standard.

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor