Standard parts improve the world: Transportable OP microscope receives the German Standard Parts Award 2017
Over 80% standard parts make up the OP microscope for ENT and eye doctors affordable in developing countries
This year's winning project of the German Standard Parts Award (Deutscher Normteile Award) is an impressive example of how the use of standard parts can contribute to helping and supporting developing countries effectively. In the competition, organized by CADENAS and Otto Ganter, the transportable operation microscope from Prechtl Engineering won first place and was awarded a cash prize of 2.500 euro. Comprised of over 80% standard parts from a total of 191 components, the development as well as the installation of the microscope is very cost-effective. Moreover, the procurement of spare parts is very simple since they are available everywhere and at short notice. The transportable OP microscope is currently in use by ears, nose and throat doctors (ENT), as well as eye specialists in Africa, Asia and Oceania to provide surgical care for people in remote regions of the world. This is because medical operations, which are routine in Europe, can only be carried out in such countries under difficult conditions with high risks to the patients.
“The attention our project has received through the German Standard Parts Award is really great. We hope that EAGLE (European Association of Global Lecturing ENT reg.), who collects money for the OP microscope, will thus obtain further support,” says Jakob Prechtl, CEO of Prechtl Engineering. To this the German software manufacturer CADENAS supports the association by donating an additional 2.000 euro on top of the prize money from the German Standard Parts Award. In addition, many CADENAS customers, such as igus and MISUMI, not only provide components digitally via www.partcommunity.com, but also donate those parts in real life.
A true lightweight that can be used anywhere
The worldwide unique transportable OP microscope differs to conventional devices with a total weight of only 12kg. It can easily be transported by doctors for their outreach missions in remote areas. The OP microscope is ready to use without the help of tools in only 5 minutes and can be mounted on the side rails of operating tables as well as on any normal table, thanks to the patented clamping device. Moreover, it works independently of the electricity supply.
From an exotic idea to reality
Jakob Prechtl first got the idea to develop the microscope back in 2010, through his friend ENT doctor, Dr. Biesinger: “He told me about his experiences when working abroad during a charity mission in Southeast Asian Myanmar. He needed much more time than usual for routine operations, because the required medical equipment was not available meaning higher risks to patients. Most of all, he missed a reliable functioning OP microscope for delicate operations in the middle and inner ear. He therefore dreamed of a "travel microscope" that he could simply take along in the future.”
The engineering company Prechtl Engineering had previously been specialized mainly in the design and development of larger machines as well as machine tools. The idea of the OP microscope was rather exotic for Prechtl: “At that time we weren't even active in the medical technology sector. To begin with, we purchased a used OP microscope by auction, took it completely apart and studied its functions in detail. We then thought about how to implement those functions in a miniature version.” As early as 2011 he accompanied a team of doctors in their workshop to Myanmar with the first prototype in his luggage and got to monitor and follow the first use of the device live.
Since then, the transportable OP microscope is used in the ENT area for operations in the middle and inner ear as well as for larynx operations. "The very first Cochlea implant in Myanmar was performed with our microscope. In the process, a deaf person's hearing was restored," Jakob Prechtl proudly reports. Moreover, eye doctors use the microscope predominantly for cataract operations. Up to now, the OP microscope has been used in the regions of Africa (Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia) and Asia (Georgia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar) as well as Oceania (Papua New Guinea).
Also Dr. Biesinger is enthusiastic about the portable OP microscope: "For every operation, I am pleased to work and train with this microscope. Not only because of its unique practicality, but because this outstanding innovation has already brought hearing and sight to so many people in poor countries, or even saved their lives. I thank the people here in Europe who support this development and our associated association European Association of Global Lecturing ENT e.V. (www.eagle-ent.org). And so I wish that our sustainable work will continue to be supported by sufficient financial support."
Mostly poor patients benefit from price savings through the use of standard parts
Doctors and organizations that often use the portable surgical microscope in remote regions of the world to perform urgent ear or eye surgery usually do not have the resources they need to get the device. The money is usually not available to purchase the device for ear and eye surgery. “It was clear from the start that the microscope is a niche product and would not be produced in bigger series. This eliminated the use of mostly expensive production parts. We had to design the components as simple and inexpensive as possible and keep the number low. It was a balancing act to implement as many functions as possible with catalog parts and standard parts, without making concessions in usability and design,” says Prechtl about the development process. Catalog parts thus play a crucial role in the OP microscope. Moreover, wear and spare parts can be purchased at short notice worldwide through the use of standard parts.
More OP microscopes are urgently needed
A transportable operation microscope will hopefully soon be helping the eye specialist Dr. Waimbe Wahamu to provide better care for his patients in the remote areas of the highlands of Papua New Guinea. “As the only eye doctor in this vast region, he is responsible for more than a million people. Since his hospital cannot raise money for the OP microscope, the EAGLE association is taking donations for the approx. 10.000 euro device,” says Jakob Prechtl.
Additional medical aid already in planning
Jakob Prechtl remains in contact with many doctors and organizations, even after the OP microscope has been delivered: “It enables me to offer help quickly in case of technical difficulties. I also receive regular feedback of possible improvements and optimizations.” In this manner, Prechtl also had the idea to develop a portable floor stand for the OP microscope. Since attaching to a table does not always entirely succeed, the floor stand will soon be available to supplement the microscope, in two versions: A basic version for permanent use in a clinic and a lighter version that can be taken along for fieldwork.
This project demonstrates that the deliberate use of standard parts is not only advantageous for the industry but also makes a decisive contribution to humanitarian aid with clever ideas and lots of commitment. "The German Standard Parts Award has precisely this goal in mind. The competition should show that standard parts can greatly contribute to implement engineering ideas efficiently in practice. We are also pleased that this year's first prize went to an outstanding humanitarian project", says Jürgen Heimbach, CEO of CADENAS.
Jakob Prechtl will present his exciting project in a presentation at the 19th CADENAS Industry Forum on the 7th & 8th of March 2018 in Augsburg, Germany and tell all about its latest status as well as the importance of standard parts in engineering.
Information about the German Standard Parts Award and the other winners, as well as all the projects sent in at: www.deutscher-normteileaward.de.