for Innovative Medical Devices
ing to remove the camera from the body.
What makes the device so novel is the fact
that it isolates the lens from debris using
a continuous barrier that is replaced and
recirculated when needed, unlike standard
devices, which need to be removed and
stration showed that a biased linkage is
capable of amplifying the force applied
to the device tip and creates enough of a
frictional lock to oppose a retraction spring
until the tip force is released.
The next step was to conduct analysis of
the mechanism and create a set of theoretical models to facilitate design. The models
were then used to design an alpha prototype that demonstrated the mechanism for
use in a laparoscopic trocar.
Begg’s Design Process
The key behind Begg’s approach to an
engineering challenge is the extent to
which he immerses
himself in a particular
problem. He works
closely with surgeons
and other medical
professionals in their
environment, so that
he is able to witness
how a device is used.
is key at this step – you
want to live the problem to best understand
it. Hold it in your hands
and try to take it apart.
Speak to people affected by the problem face
to face, and then watch
them at work. Work
with them, if you can,”
says Begg. He continues this relationship
throughout the design
process and development stages to ensure
the highest level of success.
approach is evident in
the entire engineering process, from
conception to completion. After preliminary
studies and ideating, the prototyping and
construction phases are just as involved.
“Throughout the process, I stay as hands-on as possible, and build something whenever I have the chance. The value of proof-of-concept prototypes and bench-level
mechanism, I realized that the pinned
joints in the linkage rotated through an
extremely small angle, therefore a flexural
linkage would easily offer the same functionality at a highly reduced part count,”
says Begg. This meant that a flexure could
then be incorporated directly into the alpha
prototype. The flexure itself was designed
and fabricated using a new kind of micro-abrasive water-jetting technology. The
flexure’s theoretical behavior was then analyzed using computation software.
At that point, several new prototypes
were designed with a focus on flexure
design and iteration. Those prototypes
featured a layered, modular construction of acrylic using a laser-cutter, which
allowed for rapid part switching. Through
that method Begg was able to produce
and demonstrate multiple flexure designs.
This concept of checks and balances in the
initial stages was very important to Begg’s
approach, as it allowed him to work out
any possible kinks in advance. “My favorite
part of the engineering design process is
going from the initial problem to a robust
and well-designed prototype that demonstrates a solution to that problem,” he says.
All Images: Nikolai Begg
Practice Makes Perfect
Through Begg’s initial testing, it was
important to demonstrate the basic func-
tionality behind his concept. The demon-
The alpha prototype was designed with
CAD software and constructed using
manual machining techniques, as well as
SLA rapid prototyping for the outer casing,
which featured complex curvature. Once
constructed, the prototype was tested for
functionality on tissue simulators. Issues
were identified and incorporated into a
second iteration, which was again designed
and fabricated with the same methods.
Words of Wisdom
When asked to summarize his design and
engineering philosophy, Begg offers three
bits of wisdom: practice, “live” the problem, and stay fascinated. His engineering
success is an example of the importance
of being truly invested in an engineering
issue. In most cases, it is not possible to
arrive at a successful device solution if one
does not become involved in the ultimate
application of the end product.
“Nothing compares to standing in the
operating room and feeling the tension as
a surgeon curses at an instrument while
performing a life-saving procedure, or navigating the awkward silence as you watch
the patient you are interviewing struggle
to take a blood-glucose measurement
with his one functioning hand,” he says.
By really getting to know the challenge,
including the environment and its users, he
is able to succeed with better results. Apart
from Begg’s work with MIT, he is also an
avid teacher, mentor, and ambassador for
engineering. Begg's award winning portfolio and promising talent make him a true
inspiration to the industry. PDD