Images of Lifty prototypes developed in partnership with Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC).
Leveraging support from the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), DAZL Innovations Inc. partnered with Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) for a collaborative research and development project to bridge the gap between their initial prototypes and a finished product for real-world usability.
As a result of the project, DAZL Innovations successfully pinpointed the top-performing prototype through rigorous end-user testing, slashed its manufacturing costs, and expedited the launch of its flagship product, The Lifty. DAZL Innovations is poised to release The Lifty by next year or earlier.
The repetitive action of opening plastic medical vial caps using her thumb and forefinger led Laura Bosch, a registered nurse and co-founder of DAZL Innovations Inc., to receive a diagnosis of the painful condition known as De Quervain’s syndrome. This personal struggle drove Laura and her husband, Arron Bosch, to establish DAZL Innovations Inc. in hopes to reduce the prevalence of De Quervain’s syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive strain injuries within the healthcare industry.
Leveraging SONAMI funding, DAZL Innovations partnered with the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) part of IDEAWORKS, Mohawk College’s active hub of applied research and innovation on a collaborative research and development project. The project’s aim was to improve the design of the industry partner’s flagship product, the Lifty, by developing an efficient and durable device to remove medical vial caps, that would be cost-effective to manufacture.
“We had a handful of initial Lifty prototypes made of carbon fibre-reinforced nylon that were expensive to produce, so that was not a viable go-to-market strategy,” explained Laura. “In addition, we needed expertise to understand which plastics could be used to create a durable product that could withstand autoclave sterilization in hospital settings. So, we partnered with AMIC leveraging their manufacturing and plastics expertise to design a high-quality and cost-effective product.”
“DAZL Innovations utilized 3D printing technology with a printing cost ranging from $40 to $50 per unit, and they were keen to explore alternative 3D printing technologies to reduce this cost,” elaborated Justin Valenti, Project Manager of Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC).
During the project, AMIC successfully generated several prototype designs that met their industry partner’s requirements and slashed their product manufacturing costs.
“AMIC’s 3D printing lab was impressive,” remarked Laura. “We explored a range of manufacturing options and created four distinct prototype designs, then AMIC produced 35 to 40 units of each prototype.”
“We discovered that the prototypes exhibited remarkable durability during our testing, requiring a significant number of uses to show any signs of wear. So, we pivoted our approach, placing the prototypes in the hands of potential end users, registered nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital, for their evaluation,” Justin elaborated.
The trial not only helped the industry partner to identify the most effective prototype, but it also led Laura to learn more about her potential end users and how many of them suffered from wrist strain conditions.
“Some of the results shocked me because I knew that I experienced a problem with my hand, but when I went back to my nursing unit, other nurses were telling me how their wrists and hands hurt. After doing more research, I discovered that 30% to 70% of healthcare professionals don’t report their injury until they can’t work anymore,” explained Laura.
“According to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) data 40% of their claims are from repetitive strain injury, with the top four most common strain injuries being hand and wrist injuries,” said Laura. “Our results showed that 80% of the nurses taking part in the Lifty trial, were experiencing pain when opening caps or they found cap removal difficult prior to using our prototype. That was pretty shocking for me, I was not expecting that high number.”
All four prototypes in the trial performed exceptionally well and the industry partner was able to select the best-performing prototype.
“Based on the input from the nurses in the trials, we were able to identify the prototype for mass production,” said Laura.
During the project, Sherif Abdou, General Manager of Business Development at AMIC, Simon Coulson, General Manager at AMIC, and Justin Valenti provided expertise in technologies such as injection molding and supervised the student researchers.
“Students do not typically gain much hands-on knowledge with injection molding devices, so they encountered a new realm of technology that fascinated them. Typically, students are primarily exposed to 3D printing, but this project provided them with valuable hands-on experience in creating prototypes and products specifically designed for injection molding, thereby expanding their experiential knowledge,” said Justin.
Brooklyn Huybens and Max Bellmer, were students in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Mohawk at the time of the project. They compared 3D printing technology costs, researched materials and mechanical properties to determine strength, added functionality to the device, and printed and tested various versions of the device before sending them to the industry partner.
“Working on this project helped me learn about the design optimization process,” Brooklyn expressed. “Also, being involved in a project from start to finish taught me the necessary skills which led to successful project outcomes.”
“This project provided me with the opportunity to iterate DAZL’s designs and experiment with a variety of materials and additive manufacturing processes,” Max commented. “With support from SONAMI, our research team was able to provide the industry partner with the most efficient design, giving me the opportunity to learn about additive manufacturing hands-on with a real-world product.”
Both DAZL Innovations and AMIC expressed great satisfaction with the project outcomes. The project played a pivotal role in preparing the industry partner for mass production and launching the product by next year or earlier.
“This SONAMI project provided DAZL Innovations with expertise in plastics, 3D printing, and designing Lifty prototypes that were trialed at St. Joseph Hospital,” explained Laura. “Also, we were able to use the prototypes in the Synapse Life Sciences Competition, winning the quick pitch portion and coming in 4th in the competition overall.”
“I find it truly remarkable that there is support available to assist individuals who lack the necessary knowledge and expertise,” said Laura. “I encountered a problem and had an idea for a solution, but I would not have been able to launch this product to market without additional assistance.”
“Leveraging SONAMI’s support, DAZL Innovations partnered with Mohawk’s AMIC providing us with access to a wide range of experts. Now, we are looking forward to launching our product by next year or earlier. AMIC also connected us with a manufacturing production company that could print larger quantities of the Lifty.”
SONAMI provides innovative solutions, such as process optimization, designing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing and commercializing new or improved products. SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to support manufacturing in Canada.
If you would like to discuss your organization’s needs with a SONAMI representative, please contact [email protected].