Not out on a limb

LSS035 - high resolution
LSS035 - high resolution

It takes a lot of dedication to choose a career in medicine. To become a GP, it’s five years of further training on top of a medical degree, and to become a hospital consultant takes between seven and nine years.

That’s a lot of theoretical and practical training. But how often do any of us think about what that training entails, particularly on the practical side?

The team at Limbs and Things think about little else, as the company specialises in providing anatomically accurate and procedurally correct models used in training the next generation of medical practitioners. To help manufacture such high-quality products, Limbs and Things turned to bandsaw specialist Starrett for support.

Established in 1990 by Margot Cooper, a medical illustrator, Limbs and Things creates models specifically designed to support the development of physical examination, general procedural and specialist skills across the healthcare sector. When Ms Cooper set up the business there was a shift taking place in the way medical professionals were developing and gaining clinical skills.

Her experience and knowledge gained in medical education proved that there was a clear need for a way of training healthcare professionals away from patients, cadavers and animals. So she developed Limbs and Things’ 3D models range to fill the gap. Since developing its first dynamic, anatomical models of the foot and spine, as well as synthetic soft tissue models, the company has gone on to continually expand and improve its product line.

Naturally, designing and producing such high quality, accurate models of the human body that are tailored to demonstrate various conditions requires much R&D. To this end, Limbs and Things works with various specialist surgeons, advisors and medical educators, as well as scan data from human subjects, to ensure as much anatomical accuracy as possible in the 3D models.

To supply the tools for hands-on training for healthcare professionals, it’s important to be able to easily manufacture prototypes that can be examined and tested thoroughly by those in the industry to make sure the final product is fit for purpose.

“We work with a variety of different materials, and when it comes to prototype development we need the tools at our fingertips to make models easily and cost-effectively,” explains Piers Bentley, design engineer at Limbs and Things.

“We want all of our products to replicate a real-life situation as closely as possible to facilitate effective training. This includes replicating the touch and feel of skin or muscle tissue as well as mimicking any fluids that may be present in a given situation. As a result, stainless steel features in many of our products as we know it will not rust and compromise the lifespan of our models.”

Using stainless steel means that the manufacturing of prototype medical simulators often results in the need to cut small lengths of metal cleanly. This is why Limbs and Things was looking for a new, cost-effective machine to incorporate into its workshop. Starrett’s S1101 bench top bandsaw machine fitted the bill.

“Starrett is well known for its quality products, and its S1101 bandsaw doesn’t disappoint,” says Mr Bentley. “The bench top machine is the ideal solution for our cutting needs. Not only is it small enough to fit into our workshop with an affordable price tag, the machine is versatile enough to produce a range of cutting angles without lubrication.”

As the small bandsaw weighs just 23kg, the robust machine is easy to move around the workshop as required.

“The machine was specifically designed with metalworking and maintenance workshops in mind,” adds John Cove, marketing manager at Starrett. “As a result, it is ideal for cuts in smaller solids and tubes, up to a maximum tube diameter of 100mm. Our bi-metal bandsaw blades also ensure a smooth finish to any cuts, so prototype models by Limbs and Things are guaranteed to be completed to a high standard.”

Product design is a complex and challenging process in any sector, but when you’re producing tools to train future medical professionals, nothing but a perfect result will do. When employing advanced technology such as 3D printing and the latest CAD tools, companies like Limbs and Things have to go back to basics for a few things — but that doesn’t mean basic is substandard.

“Being able to cut as much steel as we need, when we need it, is fantastic,” Mr Bentley comments. “Starrett has been a great help; not only has the company provided a well thought out machine – the team of engineers we dealt with invested time in understanding our needs and advising on the best blades for our purposes. In the same way that we rely on the expertise of the medical professionals that inform our design process, we need to work with suppliers that can advise us on best practice. Starrett’s team has definitely done that.”





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