Tara Holloway, RPO's Business Development Manager, joined the team in 2016 and is now spearheading the application of RPO’s capabilities in the medical technology market. Tara works directly with manufacturers and service providers to support innovative optical designs for medical device applications. She shares her thoughts on the industry and some of the current projects she is tackling.
What developments are you currently seeing in the medical device market?
This industry is advancing with an increasing emphasis on the development of affordable, compact and portable instruments. Reducing cost of ownership and ruggedizing instrument design often increases the serviceable market for equipment manufacturers. Diagnostic instruments that improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis, reduce invasiveness or improve treatment efficacy will continue to account for the majority of new “optics-based” technology under development. Another growing trend is the move toward single-use optics in medical devices and accessories to eliminate cost and risks associated with re-sterilization.
Beyond new product development, many companies are looking for a way to reduce their cost of goods by simplifying optical designs, selecting alternative materials and/or changing manufacturing processes. I’ve worked with several companies that have successfully transitioned from conventionally fabricated glass optics to molded plastic optics, or a hybrid of glass and polymer optics, to achieve significant cost savings.
Where does RPO have an advantage when it comes to meeting the needs of this growing market?
The wide scope of RPO's expertise provides customers with optical design and manufacturing expertise that few other companies can match. Conventional optics fabrication, precision machining, diamond turning, glass and polymer molding, assembly and coating are all performed at RPO’s facility. The design engineering team at RPO works closely with manufacturing during the design phase to ensure that the optics we design can be consistently and cost-effectively produced.
RPO has invested heavily in advanced capital equipment for optics fabrication, and further automation of our assembly processes is planned for 2018. In particular, RPO’s precision glass and polymer molding processes are ideal for high-volume requirements. Working with RPO also allows medical device customers the advantage of working with our Asian Supply Chain Management, POTC. This partnership further opens up material and manufacturing possibilities. The RPO team offers comprehensive knowledge at every phase of a project, from optical system design through fabrication. The process is interactive and collaborative.
What opportunities should companies be exploring right now?
Diagnostic instruments have a big impact on cost and quality of treatment. Cancer detection is a significant area of opportunity, as earlier detection usually leads to higher treatment success. Several companies are developing instruments to identify suspicious or cancerous cells, optically. These types of medical imaging devices typically require high performing precision optics. On the flip side, there is a lot of opportunity in commercialization. An expansion of Point-of-Care devices could create a big shift in healthcare. While the opportunity is there, it has not fully materialized yet. It is a viable direction for the market, though.
Are there common challenges you're hearing about in medical device?
There is a need for optics manufacturers who provide design and fabrication expertise and many firms struggle to find a developer that can provide both. Placing an emphasis on manufacturability and cost objectives during the initial design stage can eliminate the need for redesign later. RPO's ability to provide vertically integrated optical design services offers customers a significant advantage. With extensive experience that includes custom objectives, complex lens assemblies, diffractive optics, molded glass aspheres and molded plastic optics - RPO is able to offer “cradle to grave” support on optics and lens assemblies. We will take the time to share our expertise and explain what can be achieved in production.
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