Do you know the five secrets for successful medical device development? Here are some manufacturing insights that product developers should know. 


Hi, this is Gordon Styles, the President and CEO of Star Rapid. I’ve been involved in rapid prototoyping and new product development for over 35 years, and I’m here to welcome you to another episode of Serious Engineering for serious engineers. 




I’m not a real doctor but I play one on daytime television.  


After performing many life-saving operations, I’ve learned what it takes to make medical and healthcare products that are safe, effective, easy to use and to keep clean. So today I’m going to share with you the top 5 secrets for successful medical product development. First, raise your right hand and promise that you will use the power only for good, and not for evil. 


Now just relax, take a deep breath, open wide and say “Ahhh…” 


  1. Easy to Clean


Medical products are exposed to all kinds of contaminants. Some are just icky, while others are truly hazardous. These include alcohol (not the good kind, sadly), acids, reagents, viruses, bacteria, and bodily fluids. That means that if your product isn’t disposable then it has to be cleaned – a lot. Therefore, devices should be designed to make this easy to do. 


How? If the product is a case or an enclosure, and there are seams or joints between shells, then these joints should be watertight. If that’s not possible, then don’t hide the seam. Keep it accessible so that a swab or a fingertip can easily wipe it down. 


On the same point, be wary of ribs, recesses, tight radii, pockets, and other features that are hard to reach, and which can provide hiding places for bugs.  


Sharp internal angles should be eliminated or designed so they have larger and more gradual curves. Overall, it’s best to favor unified designs that present a single unbroken flat or convex face that offers the minimum opportunity for dirt to collect. 


Those surfaces should also have a smooth texture and be non-porous so they can be swabbed, sprayed, or wiped with cleaners. If there are internal mechanisms these must be carefully sealed against contamination as well.  


  1. Easy on the Hands


You’ll rarely find any rough or abrasive surfaces in a clinical environment. That’s because it’s hard to keep them clean and they can also be a potential source of injury.  


But you also don’t find very slick or highly polished surfaces either because these can slip out of your hand or cause accidents. The sweet spot is a matte or bead blasted finish, something that provides tactile feedback for the user without being either too sticky or too slippery.  


Another important point: tools or equipment used in stressful emergency situations- especially if they’re going to be held or touched – should have large, rounded contours. In other words, easy to hold or grab quickly but without sharp angles or edges that could cut someone or snag on clothing if the user is preoccupied. 


  1. Easy on the Eyes


Matte textures on medical products tend to diffuse and absorb reflected light, which is a surprisingly important consideration but one that’s often overlooked. 


Why is that? Because most doctor’s offices or hospital rooms are saturated with blue/white fluorescent lighting that provides uniform illumination. This is necessary of course to help doctors or clinicians to see clearly. But strong lighting can also create glare, reflections, sharp highlights or confusing contrasts. These can all be physically and emotionally taxing in stressful situations. 


Therefore, all materials used in this kind of space should be bead blasted, etched or otherwise finished with a light-absorbing surface that’s gentler on the eyes.  


  1. 4. Simplicity


More and more healthcare products are used in the home for diagnostic, first-aid, and convalescent care. And they’re being used by average folks without any special medical training. 


To help non-professionals, and to prevent possible mistakes, these products need to be as user-friendly and foolproof as possible. A good way to do this is to simplify the design so that the proper function is implied by the shape of the medical product.  


That means the shape should imply and instruct its intended use. That way, even someone who has had no instruction would be able to pick it up and immediately know how to hold it and what it’s for.  

The intelligent application of icons, pictograms, arrows and other visual cues are also helpful in this regard. 


Another good idea is to make buttons large and single function. If there are critical features, these must be easy to spot quickly so they can be accessed in emergency situations without thinking. For these reasons, the smart use of color is also a big help. 


  1. 5. Smart Colors


Color can be a powerful messenger, instantly communicating both emotion and information. 


For example, strong colors help to separate important or even dangerous functions (red/yellow) from safe ones (green or blue). Gradations of hue, descending from darker to lighter, also help to denote a range of values. (Reducing volume, intensity, dosage, etc.) Colors can define sections or zones on a product which are useful guides or reminders about proper usage. 


And of course, color has a strong emotional connection. For example, vibrant colors add energy and stimulation, which you might find on healthcare products related to fitness or activity.  


In other situations, bright primary colors are fun and attractive to children, while warm colors like golds and yellows impart a feeling of calm in prenatal settings meant to inspire nurturing. 


Light greens and blues are associated with growth and the natural world, and these are more common in surgical and clinical settings along with soft pastels and off-whites. Conversely, bright reds and oranges in the wrong setting would be too strong and unsettling. 


So there you have it, the top 5 design tips for successful medical devices. Did we miss something? If so, drop us a line in the comments below. 


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