Platform 4: Design & Manufacturing

Principal Investigator

Professor Simon Fraser, Victoria University of Wellington

Associate Investigators

  • From Victoria University of Wellington: Dr Will Browne, Kah Chan, Bernard Guy, Dr Taeyhun Rhee, Dr Brian Robinson, Dr Edgar Rodriguez
  • From University of Auckland: Dr Thor Besier, Prof Jillian Cornish, Dr Tim Woodfield
  • From Auckland University of Technology: Dr Duncan Babbage, Dr Nicola Kayes, Dr Nada Signal


The Design & Manufacturing Technology Platform engages design to generate novel user-focused applications of technologies developed within the CoRE. This will lead to innovative high-value, advanced medical devices, systems and services in collaboration with patients, clinicians, science, engineering, design and industry partners.

A specific strength in this Platform is the Smart Interaction Design (SID) programme, which refers to human-device interactions in which medical devices can react in “smart” ways to the environment and the actions of patients, medical practitioners and healthcare providers.

Smart interactions are supported by the unique combination of design, biosensing, biomimetics, 3D printing and additive manufacturing within the Platform.


The Design & Manufacturing Technology Platform interprets the notion of ‘end-user’ broadly, extending beyond the user of a manufactured product or service, to include industry as the user or adopter of technologies and processes emerging from the MedTech CoRE. This supports the definition of innovation as being more than new or novel for its own sake, to include bringing value to a business, a market or society. In this respect the platform supports the notion of translational research as a continuum from pure research, or discovery through to commercialisation; or translational research and trans-disciplinary collaboration as a means of effecting step change — facilitated by design.

A diagram showing overlapping design areas. Three overlapping types of design research are shown, Industrial Design Research, Interaction Design Research and Digital Media Design Research. They are on top of Science, Engineering & Clinical Research and Research Engagement with End Users. They lead to Pathway to Market. Industrial Design Research\'s expertise is Innovation applications of medical and manufacturing technologies, rapid prototyping and Additive Manufacturing for user testing, ergonomics, physical interfaces and new forms of customised production. The outputs are physical products: wearable devices, home-based medical devices, hospital and clinical equipment. Digital Media Design Research expertise is innovative applications of digital technologies (scanning, imaging, sensing, tracking, wireless), serious game design and user experience research, and usability and digital interfaces. Outputs are digital products: software, novel interfaces for apps, games and healthcare services. User Focus is research engagement with end users. This includes industry, clinicians and technicians and patients.

Design contribution to the MedTech CoRE

One key objective is solving interaction design challenges, focusing on real world medical devices and the associated user experiences of the patient and clinician. The Smart Interaction Design (SID) Programme at Victoria University fosters collaborative research that engages with the external community and industry and aims to produce innovative commercially viable design solutions.

This supports the worldwide trends signaling a move from medical practitioner-led healthcare in hospitals to patient-led healthcare at home. This is acknowledged by governments and large manufacturers of medical devices such as Philips, Samsung, Bayada, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. Patients tend to improve faster at home than at hospitals, and depression and infection rates increase the longer a patient stays in hospital. Home-based healthcare will also help reduce hospital costs in space, equipment and staff hours.

The combination of design, biosensing and biomimetics has the potential to translate raw human data into relevant experiences for patients and caregivers – such as video games that facilitate exercising (exer-games) to help patients engage in their own treatment at home. This could be further improved if the exer-games offered relevant challenges that depended on the performance of each patient through the tracking of relevant human data. The research can be extended to many other sectors, from physical therapy to sports science performance applications and new human-computer interaction mechanisms for educational and entertainment purposes.

In order to ensure we are meeting clinical and end-user needs the platform integrates trials with clinicians and patients through the Wellington Hospital Clinical Trials Unit and AUT’s Centre for Person Centred Research, the Health & Research Rehabilitation Institute and the Centre for eHealth.

This aspect of the platform is aligned with the following themes within the MedTech CoRE:

Theme 4: Teleheath and Health Informatics and Theme 3: Assistive Technologies with a specific interest in Flagship 5: Augmentation of upper arm stroke rehabilitation

The Design and Manufacturing Technology Platform also collaborates with the UoA Product Accelerator’s 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing research capability to offer a comprehensive 3D printing expertise. This spans medical applications of high-end multi-material polymer and metal printing through to biomaterials for additive manufacturing. The combined expertise not only facilitates the rapid prototyping of manufactured medical devices across the MedTech CoRE, it will also targets entirely new forms of highly customised manufacturing of medical devices as well as novel healthcare products in the area of regenerative medicine. This will further exploit expertise in the development of biodegradable natural/synthetic biomaterials and custom 3D bioprinting devices for high value manufacturing of patient and tissue specific implants for clinical translation.

This aspect of the platform is aligned with the following themes within the MedTech CoRE: Theme 2: Interventional Technologies and Theme 5: Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine with a specific interest in Flagship 4: Patient-specific virtual organs for surgical planning and Flagship 6: Innovative new strategies for musculoskeletal & soft tissue repair

Current Projects

Flagship 5: Augmentation of Upper Arm Stroke rehabilitation

In this Flagship, the team is working to develop a predictive, subject-specific computational model of the upper limb that can be used to augment existing rehabilitation devices and provide input for other assistive devices to restore hand and arm function in patients who have recently suffered a stroke. Our existing EMG-driven musculoskeletal models (Besier) will be combined with computational neuroscience models (Sagar) to decipher „intention decoding‟ from EMG in healthy and stroke- affected individuals. We will incorporate novel, wearable sensors from our industry partners (Stretchsense and IMeasureU) to develop a closed-loop feedback controller that represents the underlying biomechanics and motor control strategy of the patient. The Flagship will rely upon Platform Technology developments in sensing and remote monitoring, software and modelling.

In particular, the design team is mapping the human experience related to upper-limb stroke rehabilitation. One of our PhD students is investigating how to design a system to facilitate constraint-induced therapy in a home environment. Constraint-induce therapy is highly successful, but rarely applied due to high costs of clinician’s engagement.

Investigators: UoA: Besier, Byblow, Sagar; AUT: Signal; Callaghan Innovation: King. VUW: Rodriguez-Ramirez, Chan, Browne.

Seed funding project: Long-term engagement to lower-limb stroke rehabilitation through a digitally manufactured exergame system.

This project investigates how a designed system of digitally fabricated and individualised game controllers and exergames can increase long-term engagement to therapies and patient outcomes for lower-limb stroke rehabilitation. The team includes engineers, industrial designers and game designers from VUW, neurophysiologists and physiotherapists from AUT, and occupational therapists. We are re-designing the system for lower-limb stroke rehabilitation based on feedback from neurophysiologists. The first prototypes will be ready in March 2016 to be tested by a neurophysiotherapy team with participants. The team will go through an iterative process to improve the design based on feedback from clinicians and participants.

Two renderings of digitally manufactured smart splints. See also caption.

Digitally manufactured smart splints: Dr Edgar Rodriguez and Kah Chan

Synthetic anatomies

Synthetic anatomies is a reference to 3D printed physiology – for different purposes – from facial prosthetics to simulated anatomies or phantoms for surgical planning. The technological background to these projects is provided by recent advances in scanning and multimateral 3D printing that enables us to mimic the physiology of the human body and print complex forms - with a variety of material properties, ranging from soft to hard, opaque to transparent and more recently in full colour; and thereby mimic anatomical qualities – density, tactility and dynamic qualities – in high fidelity and highly customised to individual anatomies.

See caption.

Designed Prosthetics: research thesis by Zach Challies. Supervisors Bernard Guy and Ross Stevens VUW

See caption.

Preliminary research into 3D printing blood vessels and brain aneurysms, Dr Kelvin Woon and Dr Peter Kerstens Wellington Hospital, Bernard Guy VUW

Collaborations and linkages

The Platform will bring together multiple fields: medical technologies, software and hardware engineering, clinical research, human psychology, medical device design and manufacturing industries with specific involvement of MedTech CoRE and CMDT industry partners.

This Technology Platform includes strategic research partners within Victoria University (Media Design and Industrial Design, Software Engineering, Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering, MacDiarmid Institute) alongside the platform partners UoC (Micro-fabrication, Biomimetics) and UoO (3D Bioprinting, Biomaterials design, Medical device design). Postgraduate students from industrial design, media design, business, engineering and medicine will be supervised within the Platform’s research programme at partner institutions.

Each partner offers Masters and PhD positions in collaboration with industry partners including ACC, Philips Design, Im-Able, Ossis, Enztec, MARS Bioimaging, Mesynthes, Electrospinz. We also have close ties to the digital creative industry via companies such as Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, RESN, PikPok Interactive, Carnival Labs, and Optimal Experience.

The group is collaborating with leading international design and manufacturing universities including: Eindhoven University of Technology (Design for Quality in Interaction and Smart Fabrics), Loughborough University (REMEDI programme, MedTech automation and scale-up), Polytechnic Institute Leiria (Virtual and Rapid Prototyping), Queensland University of Technology/University of Wollongong (Industrial Transformation Training Centre in Additive Biofabrication).