- Dorothy Hardy
- COG-MHEAR Research Programme Manager
The COG-MHEAR research teams welcomed Professor Duncan Hand recently for a talk about the ERDF/Edinburgh City-Region Deal funded Medical Devices Manufacturing Centre (MDMC) based at Heriot-Watt University. The centre provides a bridge between research and manufacture, offering a platform for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to make medical devices.
Although an engineering-focused centre, it is supported by nursing and clinical experts, helping advances in technology to be developed successfully. The centre's great range of manufacturing equipment includes laser-based equipment, Prof Duncan Hand's own specialist area. Other facilities include injection moulding equipment and electro-discharge machining (EDM) facilities that enable machining of very hard metals to make moulds, which can then be used to make batches of components reliably and repeatably. There are also extensive state-of-the-art 3D printing facilities that are of particular interest to COG-MHEAR for multi-sensor integration in multi-modal hearing assistive systems. Other facilities include spray jetting and inkjet printing for deposition of conductive tracks onto components, as well as packaging/sterilisation and analysis equipment.
The 3D printing facilities were used to help the Paisley-based company, Abergower, to develop Covid testing swabs that contain microfluidic devices to collect samples from the inside of the nose. Other products supported by the centre include the Intellipalp Dx probe for prostate cancer diagnosis; and the ConfiPlus pocket for stoma bags that contains leaks, giving a confidence boost to ostomy patients.
The centre builds on long-standing Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded research activity at Heriot-Watt on the development and manufacture of medical devices. Examples include the development of a miniature optical probe (only a couple of mm diameter) for Raman spectroscopy inside the body, with an optical fibre used to deliver laser pulses, with collection via other optical fibres to collect the Raman generated light that can be used for example to detect oesophegal cancer; also the development of spectroscopic techniques to monitor the level of a drug that is used prevent transplanted organs from being rejected. Meanwhile related research includes methods of using ultra-short (picosecond) pulsed lasers in surgery to remove only diseased tissue and leave healthy tissue intact, whilst avoiding thermal damage.
The Scottish Government's Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee recently opened a new laboratory in the MDMC, and spoke about the way in which the facility will enable SMEs to bring devices to market. The centre is set to enable many further innovations in medicine and healthcare technologies.
Medical Devices Manufacturing Centre website - https://www.mdmc.hw.ac.uk