Retinal imaging technology - Driving profitability through distinctive design

i4 started work with Optos in June 2010 and since then our relationship has blossomed from being one of their sub-contract design consultancies, to their recognised design & development partner. We have worked together on a number of highly complex projects and have helped support the development of two high profile family products to market; Daytona (November 2011) and now the most recently released California (November 2015).

Within the ophthalmic imaging market, Optos’ desktop retinal scanning devices stand out with their stunning aesthetic sleek forms which encompass their unique ultra-widefield imaging platform. Optos’ value proposition hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the Japanese firm Nikon acquiring the company  in May 2015.

Brief

Optos have always had an ambition to establish themselves as “The Retina Company”, an aspiration that came to fruition by the recent Nikon acquisition. When i4 was approached by Optos back in 2010 and asked to support their R&D team to develop an innovative desktop device we took it upon ourselves to create something special, the likes of which had never before been seen in the optometry & ophthalmology markets.

 

Our early involvement provided Optos with the complementary support they needed to realise a product roadmap and the vision to develop a family look for their ophthalmic devices. Following the success of Daytona, California is the second device in the range to go to market. The California was to be a new compact desk-top UWF retinal imaging device that moved in three planes (x-y-z) and designed to maximise patient comfort.

Our Approach

The California project presented itself as a very user-centred product which turned our design focus to look at user ergonomics as priority. We studied anthropometric data and carried out extensive user tests to ensure we optimised patient comfort. As instinctive designers we also focussed on the form factor of the device as well as the design’s manufacturing and production implications.

We carried out the full product development from design concept through to production support, consisting of extensive conceptualisation and ergonomic studies to create the new aesthetic complemented by the electro mechanical design of the x-y-z base and all of the plastic components which make up the device enclosure.

Product Research

In comparison to Daytona, which was marketed at high street optometrists, California was developed for global use in ophthalmology offices and hospital environments. We worked closely with clinicians to get an understanding of the user work flow, to enable us to experience the ergonomics from the point of view of patients and hospital staff. One of the main design challenges was to optimise the design to suit a wide range of population including wheelchair users. Based on our observations and experience with conceptual test rigs we produced a series of refined ergonomic test platforms that informed the development process.

Concept Generation

The complicated x-y-z range of motion in the California device really sets itself from the earlier Daytona. We were heavily involved in designing the electro-mechanical operation of the device which had its own challenges of space and weight constraints - all of which had an impact on the overall design.

Prototyping

Prototyping played a key role to the success of California. It involved the verification of user design during the concept generation phase but also of engineered parts for the Alpha and Beta phases. Not only were the prototypes integral to informing i4’s design team in the development of the device, they were also important for Optos’ clinical testing and marketing requirements.

Being a medical device that would be used in a hospital environment, certain standards and regulations had to be adhered to in the design. Clinical grade materials with non-flammable specifications were selectively chosen for prototyping and production.

Being able to draw from our UK and international prototype vendor base we produced vacuum formed parts. These parts enabled us to verify our designs for fit and function of the plastics and it also provided physical representation of the new aesthetic styling.

Tooling & Manufacturing Support

As with all our projects, our work extends beyond the design and engineering phases. Having gone through the process of developing the product architecture through to detailed engineering design of the final plastics, we also provided support in tooling and manufacturing for our client where we liaised weekly with manufacturers in the UK and overseas. We helped to verify tool designs and ensured that all the plastics produced were to design intent and to the standards of finish expected of a high value product. Critical documentation and reporting which monitored manufacturing progress was also part of i4's remit, strengthened with our ISO quality management system.

The Result

An exciting part of the project was the collaborative work we engaged in with the internal Optos team of highly talented optical and electronic specialists to realise a product that met all their needs.

This collaboration has resulted in a startling, contemporary device that has reinforced the company’s brand vision.

It all starts with a conversation. Let's make something amazing together.

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