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1. Why did you join Cambridge Design Partnership?
Since a young age I have been fascinated with developing solutions to complex problems through design and engineering, whether it is in motorsports, drug delivery or robotics. CDP has been innovating at an exceptional rate since its inception 23 years ago, which has attracted top talent to its group of dedicated scientists, designers and engineers formulating cutting edge products. When I learned about CDP’s culture, projects and capabilities I could not wait to join their team.
2. What background do you come from and how do you apply this knowledge to your current role?
My earliest robots, circa 2004, were built in Earl Bakken’s museum’s workshop – a classroom Earl created after launching Medtronic to develop a community of young inventors where ‘if you can think it, you can make it' in Minneapolis. Shadowed by Earl’s pacemakers amongst other healthcare museum relics, he inspired me to use my career in engineering to make people’s lives better - so off I went into medical device product development. Since then, I have designed and developed drug delivery injectors for patients with severe osteoporosis, catheters for venous access and more recently the robot inside a surgical robotics platform.
At CDP my role uses the same ‘if you think it, you can make it’ approach to partner with clients to take those ideas they can think of – and help realise them. Healthcare product development remains one of the strongest markets and with my background it’s a natural fit.
3. What interesting projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m looking at trends in drug delivery that are driving specific features, specifications and market offerings. Concentrations in parenteral products continue to increase, particularly with insulin, and when used with injector platforms already in the market the volumetric error stays the same (and safe with lower concentrations), but the dosage error to the patient increases due to the higher concentration. This drives changes across injectors for finer graduations for dose selection, tighter tolerances in all components and heightened manufacturing practices to create these components. In turn, companies can offer devices that last longer, cost less over time, produce less waste while still delivering the same active ingredient.
4. What do you see as the hot trends in your area at the moment and what is coming up in the future?
Artificial intelligence is starting to catch up to robotics and the rate that we’re learning to process large amounts of data. Image recognition and computer vision are enabling tools to be developed that were unimaginable before. Robotically assisted operations will be capable of providing guidance in complex maneuvers to operators so they can achieve a higher success rate and de-risk their operation. This kind of technology could be applied anywhere from robotic surgery performing a high-risk surgery, to a skid steer loader trying to finish a construction project faster. Due to the risks however, these kinds of developments will create an adoption gradient ranging from operator ‘assists’ to fully autonomous operations. Features like the newest Tesla’s crash avoidance saving you and others from a potentially fatal crash will be weighed against events like the Boeing 737 Max diving the airplane’s nose against the pilots will. Both cases utilising complex computing to evaluate and intervene in real world cases, with real world consequences - yet no human input.
5. Do you have any interesting hobbies:
Three of my friends and I participate in one of the oldest motorsports – car racing. We built, maintain and operate an amateur endurance racing team where on the weekends we compete throughout the south east in the US. The race brings people of all upbringings with various make and model cars into the same circuit with one common purpose – to finish and finish first. The nature of the race, a 12hr event, allows the four of us to get time at the wheel pushing for the fastest yet consistent lap times. These races are tests of technical planning, functional team dynamics and last but not least – clean execution at the wheel while under race environment pressures.
We modelled the use of lateral flow testing at CDP which enabled us to direct efforts where they would have maximum impact.
27 May 2021
Kiron Athwal explores why surgical practice must become more sustainable and proposes short and long-term actions to make this a reality.
22 April 2021
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