Tuesday, October 7, 2014

News: AMRC designers at the sharp end

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Design experts at The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham are working with an enterprising hospital doctor to help the NHS to save money.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), the AMRC is a world-class centre for innovative research and focuses on advanced machining and materials research. It operates a Design Prototyping and Testing Centre that brings together design and prototyping with structural testing, key areas in the research of high-value manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, energy, motorsport and medical technology.

Dr Paul Hercock, a senior emergency medicine speciality registrar and managing director of Mantra Medical in Sheffield, approached the AMRC with an idea for cutting down on the cost of disposing of "sharps" – used scalpel blades and needles - in hospitals.

Specialist sharps bins are expensive to dispose of but since swabs, cardboard carrying trays and the like are often used with sharps, they tend to be put in the sharps bins too.

Dr Hercock, said: "People put all sorts of stuff in a sharps bin, although they are up to ten times more expensive to dispose of. Hospitals are literally burning money as a result.

"I had this idea for a bin that would reject any waste that wasn't a sharp and I went to the AMRC to ask if the idea was a goer."

The AMRC secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund and High Value Manufacturing Catapult which enabled Mantra to engage with the design team who came up with alternative solutions to the problem, such as detectors recognising non-ferrous metals and an idea to prevent sharps bins being over-filled.

The centre has so far helped more than 120 Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Dr Hercock, who left full time medicine in 2009 to pursue the business, added: "It was a really positive experience. Working with the AMRC was very useful – but not in the way I expected. Actually, a negative is just as important as a positive. It saves you wasting your time and spending thousands of pounds and the really good, well-structured research they came up with showed there were a few ways around the problem.

"I'd be very keen to collaborate with the AMRC again in the future – in fact I have got another new idea that I would like to sit down with the AMRC and talk about."

Whilst Dr Hercock is still buzzing with ideas, his current priority is to find investment to get two earlier inventions to market. One invention is for cleaning the probe of a pulse oximeter, which clips onto a finger and measures pulse and the oxygen saturation of the blood. The other cleans the inflatable cuff that is slipped onto a patient's arm when their blood pressure or a sample of blood needs to be taken.

Mantra Medical website
AMRC website

Images: AMRC / Bond Bryan

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