Newsletter – June 2014

Bulletin Board
Member News
Summary of North Central Chapter Spring Program

Bulletin Board
Reminder: AMWA North Central Chapter Summer Happy Hour/Networking Event

Wherever you work— at home as a freelancer or onsite for a company— join fellow AMWA members for a chance to talk shop and network at our next informal chapter get-together.

When: Wednesday, June 25 from 5:30 to 7:30

Where: McCoys in St. Louis Park

Feel free to bring non-member colleagues who may be interested in learning more about AMWA.

RSVP to Deborah Sugerman at d…


Member News
Scott Wessels, AMWA’s North Central chapter member who serves on our publication committee, recently earned the ELS certification with his successful completion of the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) exam. The exam, written by senior life-science editors, focuses on the principles and practices of scientific editing in English. Congratulations, Scott!

AMWA North Central Chapter Spring Program: A visit to the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center

By Michael Livingston

For me, the spring program began as a “quest” through the Academic Health Center’s institutional-style maze of hallways. (I took a wrong turn, and I think I ended up in the morgue.) Eventually I found the stylish entrance to the state-of-the-art Medical Devices Center, hidden deep in the heart of the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus.

The facility’s entrance looks like the headquarters of a posh medical device start-up company. Our group crowded into the hallway and peered through broad panes of glass, ogling the wood paneling, trade show-like displays, and large, interactive monitors. Quite the transformation of a former parking garage!

Arthur Erdman, the facility’s director, provided a brief history of the Center and answered questions. Darrin Beekman, the lab’s supervisor, then led the tour. While the Center does not have a formal affiliation with any specific medical device company, it sounded as though it has strong ties to Boston Scientific.

Our first stop was the conference room used by the Innovation Fellows. Darrin explained that the walls were coated with a special paint that can be written on and then wiped off. The idea is to break the limiting bonds of paper—and it appeared to work.

We peered into offices on our way to the electronic prototype lab. For those of us familiar with active implantable medical device labs, it appeared a bit rudimentary, but it was well-appointed and certainly contained sufficient tools and raw materials to create prototype medical tools, equipment, and electronics.

Next, we crossed the hallway into what appeared to be a standard machine shop, except for the large black cabinet-sized printer: the Objet 260, an advanced 3-D printer!

Standard machine shop tools...

Standard machine shop tools…

3D Printer Medical Devices Center

… and the not-so-standard Objet 260 printer (with Darrin for scale)!

Darrin showed us amazing print samples and explained that it worked by building up an object, layer upon layer. Of particular interest was the fact that the printer can print materials with different degrees of hardness and then integrate them into a single object.


A 3-D spine and esophagus printed as shown in varied color and hardness, layer upon layer (no assembly required).

A 3-D spine and esophagus printed as shown in varied color and hardness, layer upon layer (no assembly required).

The hallway past the lab overflowed with expired and donated medical equipment and device components. Despite any concerns about possible copyright infringement, I think that other device companies would benefit from donating product for students and fellows to use as components of their own projects.

After a brief spin through the wet labs, we arrived at the virtual prototyping lab. Donning 3-D glasses, we experienced an innovative tool that allows the user to view a 3-D image in an active, mobile 3-D space. A control table provides real-time input, and the user navigates a virtual passage through a scanned heart image. It was definitely a hit with our group.

A self-guided, 3-D “Fantastic Voyage” through the heart.

A self-guided, 3-D “Fantastic Voyage” through the heart.

The Center is intended as an education and training center, as well as a research and medical device incubator for industry. It offers two types of programs–one for students and one for fellows. As an incubator for new product development, there are some companies that may regard the center as competitive rather than cooperative. But as a research center and test lab for “excursion testing” and ideas outside the mainstream, I think the Medical Devices Center could be a useful proving ground for prototyping ideas and developing non-implantable medical devices. The Center seems to also be an excellent way for the next generation of medical device engineers to get their feet wet before entering the field.  (The opinions are those of the author.)