User focus for market leadership

Disposable Electrosurgical Pencil

User focus
for market leadership

Working for Chinese medical manufacturer, Arahelio, IDC redesigned one of their most popular products – the disposable electrosurgical pencil. With consistent product sales, it had initially been a low priority for redesign, but Arahelio recognised the opportunity to develop a new device which offered the same good value but with new features that would make it even more appealing to medical staff in the future. Arahelio chose to work with IDC’s design team in Shanghai, with their reputation for innovation in the medical sector.

The disposable electric surgical pen is used during common surgical operations to cut and cauterise human tissue, and consists of a penlike shape with a tip, handle, and connecting cable for electrical heating. The first stage of the redesign involved ergonomic research, so the team could understand which areas were a priority to improve the performance of the device. This research took place in the hospital, observing surgical procedures and by interviewing medical staff to get a clear direction for the design.

The ergonomic styling needed to be addressed to make it more comfortable and better balanced during use. IDC’s industrial designers developed a shape that could be well supported in the hand while rotating at different angles, with materials that gave sufficient friction to prevent slipping. Lighter soft materials were chosen for the connecting wires, which also helped improve comfort and the overall balance of the device. Heavy wiring in the previous device had caused over-balancing problems.

IDC’s team identified a number of simple ways that the device could be improved operationally. Feedback from surgeons suggested the cutting devices were prone to sticking to bodily tissues when cutting, causing an unpleasant burning smell. In order to overcome this, the team explored special high-temperature biochemical coatings and selected a high-conductivity, non-stick coating that offered a better non-stick blade solution than Teflon. This coating was able to greatly reduce adhesion and odour problems.

IDC also created a special structural design for the device, making the cutting tool free to be adjusted and extended according to the type of tissue it was cutting. Other similar devices on the market had tried to tackle this problem by allowing the blade to be pulled out for greater length, but surgeons had found these products lost stability with the blade moving within the device.In designing a solution for this, IDC made sure stability and balance was a key factor.

As the device was to be disposable, IDC fully explored safety options to avoid re-use. Currently, there is nothing to actually prevent disposable electric pens from being reused, so the team developed a new feature within the electronics to block electrical current after 7-8 hours of operation.

The redesign of Arahelio’s product shows how innovation can be achieved from mature, over-looked products by simply understanding the requirements of users and providing solutions to transform the product. Arahelio is delighted with the market’s response to the new electrosurgical pencil.