Porticos Develops Automated Medication Dispenser

Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, and Porticos Asia, the Hong Kong team which leverages Asian manufacturing for US and European clients, collaborated on a concept design that ensures accurate and consistent medication dosing for those concerned for their loved ones.

This smart, connected health hub dispenses the right pills at the right time of day. Since patients and pharmacists don’t have to sort or count pills with this devices, the dangers of human error are drastically reduced. Plus, the device can send reminder alerts to patients and connected them to trained pharmacists who can answer questions and give them advice.

Finally, patients and their loved ones can feel confident that medications are being taken properly, at the correct time, consistently with this wireless device that could fit easily into any home. Those who have been ridden with concern for their loved one on multiple medications are finally afforded some peace of mind with this life-changing device!

Detail Design: Balancing Precision and Ease

One of the fundamental pieces of the platform solution is to provide the medicine to the patient in a format that the device can properly dispense. For this innovative machine, that means a cartridge containing prepackaged foils of medicine. To meet this need, Porticos developed and designed “The Spooler.” The Spooler allows the pharmacist to efficiently and reliably package the patient-specific foils into cartridges that can then be put into the unit for dispensing by the patient.

Developing a product with such a high-stakes role in patient health presented several challenges. First, the Porticos product design team needed The Spooler to be agile and dependable—small enough to fit on a countertop, fast enough to produce a medication pack every 30 seconds, and reliable enough to be a life-or-death part of a healthcare plan. It also needed ethernet capability, and an easy-to-navigate touch screen, so even the least tech-savvy patient could use it with ease.

As the name suggests, The Spoolers’ main function is to wind and unwind the foil packets of medication to fill the cartridge. One of the obstacles faced by performing that function while meeting the time requirements is for the medication packs to jam or be torn by the mechanisms during that process. To overcome this obstacle, Porticos’ hardware engineers developed a variety of unique mechanisms, and performed designs of experiments to prove out the concepts. As a result, Porticos was able to create a Spooler that winds and unwinds smoothly every time—a reliable solution for the most critical part of patient care for this device.

One of the key steps that Porticos advised all customers to consider as part of the design process, is to prototype the design to allow functional evaluation before proceeding to production manufacturing. Case-in-point—an obstacle that was identified during initial prototype functional trails, specifically engagement and disengagement, was the Spooler’s “arm.” The arm interfaces with a hub in the cartridge to perform the winding function. Originally, Porticos’ hardware engineers designed a traditional latching mechanism to secure the arm in place, but soon realized that optimizing the process necessary to ensure good engagement with the cartridge hub, and the need for the pharmacists to easily disengage the arm was problematic. To solve this challenge, the team of hardware engineers devised a unique magnetic solution that not only met the functionality requirements, but exceeded the life cycle requirements as well.

As further testament to Porticos’ innovative contribution to the Spooler and overall product, Porticos’ engineers were named as inventor on multiple patents.

Hardware Production Challenge: Balancing Cost and Medical Standards

Once the Spooler was designed, a cost-competitive production plan that could also meet the high-quality standards for medical equipment was needed. Porticos Asia, the hardware production services arm of Porticos US, was able to identify the perfect production spot for a custom build—one that could match quality and cost efficiency with an aggressive delivery schedule. Ultimately, they were able to ship the first batch of Spoolers just twelve weeks after the start of production—all the while analyzing the manufacturing flow for further cost reduction in future production runs.

For more examples of how Porticos is Product Design for the Way We’re Designed, visit porticos-us.com.