Drilling down to send low-cost surgical hardware to Nepal

Tue, May 5, 2015

Richmond, B.C. – Product design students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) are bringing their eyes for design to a humanitarian engineering project that will send low-cost surgical drills to Nepal.

The Arbutus Drill Cover, in development by Arbutus Medical since January 2013, turns accessible hardware-store power drills into sterilized, effective and affordable surgical tools. For six weeks, third-year product design students at KPU’s Wilson School of Design have produced 86 iterations of Arbutus’ covers to develop the best possible design for the life-saving idea.

Multiple drill covers will be shipped to Nepal this week.

“Our students and faculty see this as a small act of giving back to the world through what we do every day,” said Stephanie Phillips, KPU product design instructor. “Third-year students have been honing the design to create a streamlined pattern for the soft drill cover bag. As a collaborative group, we’re bringing a design eye to an engineering solution.”

SIGN Fracture Care International approached Arbutus to urgently provide drill covers to those working to save lives on the ground in Nepal. The organization is distributing much-needed surgical equipment to eight Nepalese hospitals. Arbutus set up a GoFundMe campaign to fund the request, and approached KPU’s Wilson School of Design to deliver the drills.

“The students and faculty at the Wilson School of Design have strong product design skills that have been a great complement to Arbutus Medical and our work with the drill covers. Our collaboration with KPU has been critical in creating a product that will be appropriate for places like Nepal,” said Lawrence Buchan, co-founder of Arbutus Medical.

The covers create a cost-effective way to operate on patients in remote areas or where disaster has struck, and a high-tech $30,000 surgical tool is neither available, accessible or affordable. In an environment where many are injured and unsterilized tools appear to be the only option, the Arbutus Drill Cover provides a clean solution.

”This project, along with several other design innovations developed over the course of this academic year, illustrate KPU's growing success in integrating experiential learning and applied research to have a significant impact on our communities, both local and global,” said Arthur Fallick, associate vice-president of research at KPU.

To date, the drill covers have been sent to help patients in Uganda, Syria, Tanzania and Ukraine. Both Grand Challenges Canada and the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub have helped to support the project.

Arbutus Medical’s GoFundMe campaign is available here, and background on the drill covers, here. For more information about KPU’s product design program, visit kpu.ca/productdesign.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at www.kpu.ca.


Photos of students and faculty working on the drill cover prototyping process on Flickr.

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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