In 2001, Canon Communications announced the winners of the fourth annual Medical Design Excellence Awards competition. The awards program is designed to recognize excellence in design, engineering, innovation, and advancements in medical products.
The impartial judging panel represented a comprehensive range of medical product related disciplines including biomedical engineering, human factors, Industrial design, packaging, and primary caregivers.
From the hundreds of entries, 28 winners were selected as winners in ten product type designations. Omnica's winning entry was in the category of Rehabilitation, and Assistive- Technology Products.
The "next generation" device is a portable, high-efficiency liquid oxygen system designed for the ambulatory patient. It is relatively lightweight, and incorporates the first pneumatically driven oxygen conserver. By incorporating the customer's patented 4:1 conserver valve, the HELiOs Personal Oxygen System delivers an oxygen flow that is physiologically equivalent to that of much larger competitive devices.
Our customer supplied the internal components, and we designed and prototyped an optimized exterior. Notable design features are an integrated handle (the competition only offered slings for transport), positioned to improve balance and offer a good center of gravity when the device is lifted, a concave inner surface to hug the user's hip, and a fluted, single-bladed knob for precise oxygen-control adjustments. We incorporated many other ease-of-usability improvements into the design of the device.
This project is a good example of a successful long distance relationship between Omnica and our client company: they are located in Indiana, and we are based in California. We had a free exchange of design and engineering ideas through phone conversations, FedEx, and sharing of CAD files. We ultimately designed many of the oxygen delivery products in their line.
Market penetration of the HELiOs Personal Oxygen System in far greater numbers than originally projected by the manufacturer, shows that it is being well received. Sales of this next-generation device have boosted the entire product line. Continued escalating sales growth is a testament to the positive effect a well thought-out industrial redesign can have on an existing product.
From Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry magazine, June 2001:
HELiOS, which stands for High-Efficiency liquid-Oxygen System, is designed to provide chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients with their prescribed oxygen in a home-care environment. The system consists of a reservoir and a portable unit. The reservoir holds up to 46 L of liquid oxygen, and is used to fill the portable unit for ambulatory or mobile use. The portable unit includes an innovative pneumatic 4:1 conserver device, "which allows for the best combination of duration, small size, and light weight—3.5 lb when full," according to the manufacturer. Together, the two units provide a home oxygen system "that can effectively be 'worn' rather than 'lugged around,' which promotes patient mobility and allows for better patient prescription compliance," say Lee S. Toma, senior engineer with Puritan Bennett.
Toma notes that the system's biggest achievement was creation of the oxygen conserver. "Powered by the pressure of the oxygen gas," he explains, "it eliminates the need for a heavy and unreliable battery. Based loosely on our previous design, which only delivered oxygen on inhalation and saved about 50% over a standard continuous flow prescription, the new design saves about 75% by using a new algorithm evaluated in clinical tests." Says Toma, "This allows a very small unit to hold enough liquid to last up to ten hours at the most common 2 liter-per-minute setting. It also allows the homecare provider to save time and money on liquid deliveries."