Philips Engineering Solutions supports development and prototyping of i-Optics ‘Cassini’

Close cooperation on innovative optical measurement instrument, from prototyping series to industrial design. 

Eye operations are the world’s most common surgical procedures, and cornea measurements are essential for eye surgeons. i-Optics is a leading high-tech company in this field, whose new Cassini product delivers highly accurate corneal shape measurements, based on a patented color point-to-point measurement technology. The relations between individual LEDs are measured, using three different colors as triangulation points. Height of the corneal surface affects the distance between these points, which allows for fast, easy and precise measurements.

Philips Engineering Solutions provided a whole range of expertise throughout the product creation process. This ensured i-Optics could move from prototyping to commercial product launch, at the October 2013 ESCRS trade show, in record time.

Holistic approach and close cooperation

“In mid 2012, we were faced with the challenge of moving our product development ahead at breakneck speed, to seize the market opportunities we saw fast approaching the following year,” comments i-Optics Chief Operating Officer, Thomas van Elzakker. “The great thing about this cooperation was the fact that the Philips Engineering Solutions team took a holistic approach. They focused on details, but kept the bigger picture in mind at all times and came up with many practical suggestions which made production more efficient and helped improve overall quality.”

“We relied on their mechanical engineering skills, but also found it extremely convenient that they could directly approach colleagues in other departments, from purchasing to product development. The industrial know-how Philips Engineering Solutions brought to the table proved extremely worthwhile. Simply knowing when a product is ready for launch, or exactly which aspects need to be tested and how, is a skill in itself. Besides support in product development, we also made extensive use of Philips Engineering Solutions’ test capabilities, especially in durability and EMC. We wanted to make the very most of our testing time, so we were very happy that Philips provided very knowledgeable people on the spot. For us, it is very important to know that Cassini is reliable, robust and safe.”

Two-phase process

The project had two distinct phases, with phase one (October 2012 – February 2013), focused on prototyping for first market testing, along with CE compliance.* The first prototypes were delivered before 1 January 2013. Phase two dealt with mechanical design improvements. This was partly based on feedback from the first phase and newly-designed mechanical and optical elements to accommodate new functional demands. The result: an approved new design ready for i-Optics in June 2013.

During the initial ‘prototyping’ phase, i-Optics engaged a range of expertise from Philips Engineering Solutions including electronics manufacturing for several PCBA’s, mechanical and optical module assembly, system assembly including mechanics, electronics, cabling, firmware, covers, CE support such as EMC (Electromagnetic compatibility) and photobiological safety testing. In the second phase, a Philips Engineering Solutions mechatronic systems architect and designers were continuously involved.

From prototyping to production-ready design

i-Optics approached Philips Engineering Solutions Greenhouse, which offers Electronics Prototyping, Electronic Design Services for PCB layout and EMC testing support. “i-Optics’ engineers had developed a feasibility test model, which demonstrated the concepts behind Cassini,” explains Folkert Morsheim, Sales Manager Philips Engineering Solutions Prototyping and Manufacturing. “They asked us to make twenty-five models that could be distributed amongst real-life users from hospitals and clinics, to create awareness and gather feedback on the products. We initially focused on prototypes for customers and CE compliance testing, and created a fully functioning product. During this first phase we worked on the electronics, firmware, software, optics, modules, construction and testing. The design was improved for robustness, CE compliance and manufacturability by implementing a whole range of small but significant changes.

“Complementing the customer’s own expertise with our know-how in very specific areas was key,” adds Philips Engineering Solutions Project Leader Machiel Peters. “We mapped out a number of steps that would take us from the initial model to a safe and reliable field test prototype, engaging our specialists across various disciplines, such as EMC and electromagnetic engineering, EMC testing and electrical safety, photobiological safety, and approbation.”

Fast prototyping process

“The entire process went very fast indeed, especially considering that this was a totally new product and a new application of this technology,” Folkert continues. “We started end of September 2012 and planned on having the finalized prototype ready to ship by December. By immediately putting together the critical path resources, we could ‘buy time’. Otherwise, components might take up to two months to arrive. Any changes might mean longer production time for the prototype and delay testing! Fortunately, we know where we can source components quickly and reliably, either from our own warehouse or through our partners.”

“First, we assembled 30 prototypes, each unit a full system including all electronics, components, firmware and software. All electronics were created in-house and the mechanical components were insourced or provided by i-Optics. We integrated the hardware with firmware and software, and thoroughly tested each module before prototype assembly. After most of these prototypes had been delivered, the system architect and mechanical designers contributed their expertise. In this second phase the identified improvements were introduced to enhance robustness, manufacturability and CE compliance, working closely with selected specialists.

Mechatronics engineering expertise

“My role was to help improve the basic design, based on required functional improvements and learnings gained from making the prototypes,” explains Henk Thomassen, System Architect Products & Systems at Philips Engineering Solutions. “It was now up to us to add to the existing production and industrialization expertise, for example by proposing alternatives for some of the materials used in the original design. We knew that keeping the LEDs correctly aligned was a key factor in ensuring proper product functionality and accurate results, so we redesigned the positioning of the essential components to isolate them from the outside world. Our added value in this project was essentially rethinking everything with a fresh perspective. In the end, I think we provided a really high standard of service and quality by combining our competences, whilst remaining within a predefined budget and time schedule.”

Prototyping for first market usage, with EMC and photobiological safety

A wide array of tests played a vital role in developing Cassini. “In our lab, we rigorously tested Cassini for compliance with international EMC standards,” explains Huib van Asseldonk, Team Leader EMC and Electrical Safety Test Group. “Consulting is an important part of our service, which means we don’t leave clients to find a solution themselves if their product isn’t in line with requirements. In this case, we suggested enhancements, which resulted in full compliance with the the relevant IEC 60601-1-2 legislation. Measurements include RF (Radio frequency), electrostatic discharge, sensitivity to transients, surges, low frequency fields and dips on the power grid, harmonic distortion and much more. Working with various expert groups, as we did on this project, means lines of communication and response times are very short, making it easier to find solutions. For the client, this ‘one stop shopping’ approach is ideal. Even if your product has been designed with attention to detail, you’ll come across surprises during the test phase. We don’t make any assumptions about the technology and functionality, but rely on decades of experience to point us in the right direction if we come across anything out of the ordinary.”

Philips Engineering Solutions was also responsible for Photobiological Safety Testing. “This investigates the interaction between ultraviolet, visible and infra-red radiation on human eyes and skin,” explains Jos Marinus, Technical Assistant Optical Calibration & Measurement. “We spent several days analyzing and verifying the outcome. Our measurements conclusively showed that the Cassini was absolutely safe, to the customer’s delight.”

Professional expertise and confidentiality

“A wide array of measurements was taken to ascertain effects on the eyes and skin,” adds Henk Stel, Technologist Optical Calibration and Measurement. “The diameter of a pupil is some seven millimeters, so the calculations we need to make have to be extremely precise. The cooperation between all parties went very smoothly. The client was happy with the outcome, but also because they could rest assured that we would handle their project in a very professional, confidential way. For example, we make absolutely sure that there’s no way that one of our clients might see what other companies are working on.”

Jos Marinus continues: “More and more people are turning to us for photobiological measurements, especially now new the IEC62471 safety norm has been introduced. We measure light across the entire spectrum, including infrared and UV, and perform additional calculations to determine in which of four standard categories a product belongs: safe, low risk, average and high risk. Higher risk products require warnings on the product casing, which no manufacturer wants. Besides testing, we provide advice to ensure that products end up in the safest category possible.”

Supporting product innovation

“We see a global market of about 25,000 people, primarily cataract surgeons, who could benefit from the improvements Cassini offers in quality, speed and ease of use,” concludes i-Optics COO, Thomas van Elzakker. “We have several ideas for further development and ambitious growth plans, but our current portfolio must prove itself first. Of course, a small company with competent engineers can make prototypes, but by working with Philips Engineering Solutions, we could create a unit which could easily, quickly and cost-efficiently be transferred to production. We have shipped the products to key opinion leaders and our expectations are very high indeed. The response has been very positive and we almost immediately received the first orders. This is a completely new product and you only get one chance to make a first impression, but the reactions to Cassini have been even better than we expected.”

Find out more about Philips Engineering Solutions’ offering in Prototyping for first market trials, Small Series production, Industrialization & production techologies, Reliability Testing, EMC Testing and Electrical Safety, Photobiological Safety, and Mechatronics. Feel free to get in touch and discover how we might help your product innovations!

*The CE marking is a mandatory conformity marking for certain products sold within the European Economic Area.


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The Quality and Reliability aspects of the above project are highlighted in this news article that appeared in our Q&R Newsletter #1 2014. Check our all newsletter archive here.