Nicholson Center Blog

From Concept to Prototype: Nicholson Center Lab Design Process

Posted by Jodi Fails on Jul 16, 2020 8:42:52 AM

Do you ever think, I wish I had something to…? If you have, that’s the perfect place to start the road to a new device, tool, training model, widget, process, etc. Creating a new medical device is a long process with many steps that some people might not realize have to occur to get the device into the hands of the end user. The Nicholson Center Prototype Lab is here to ride with you on your journey from initial concept to functional prototype!Journey


After you come up with your “idea,” the initial research begins. There are prior art and intellectual property (patent searches) that need to be completed to ensure your new device is not already on the market or protected in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It is suggested to start this process yourself by doing an initial “Google” search, as well as on the USPTO website. We can also help with these initial steps utilizing special patent software. After you have done your due diligence, it’s time to find a patent attorney to help with filling out the initial patent application. Once this application is submitted, you have one year to vet out your idea and move forward with designing and developing a prototype.

Design Phase

CH1You have your idea and a provisional patent submitted, now what? The design phase. In the design phase, we will first perform a brainstorming session to help develop your idea into a solution. After the best and favorite solution is chosen, our engineer will create it in a 3D modeling CAD software. This process can be time consuming depending on the complexity of your device. 3D modeling involves taking 2D sketches and turning them into 3D shapes. When the 3D model is complete, we will have a design review session to make sure the size, shape, idea is what you envisioned during your brainstorming session. Sometimes, the design can take several iterations before the final design is ready to be sent to the 3D printer.

Physical Prototype

20191216_132339Next step, creating the physical prototype! This is the step where the inventor sees their design come to actuality. Depending on the device, the prototype can be 3D printed in a matter of hours/days. From the final 3D model, we can convert the file type to a 3D printable STL file. Our Objet350 Connex3 in-house 3D printer can print a WIDE variety of materials ranging from soft rubber-like to rigid plastic to biocompatible materials and any combination in between. Another key feature of our printer is the range of colors that can be chosen; we have the ability to select three materials at one time including the core colors: magenta, cyan, and yellow. The components of the device can be individually selected, and the materials assigned to each part. We can even print assemblies!

Validation & Feedback

NursesAfter the prototype is printed, it’s time to get the device into the hands of the inventor for validation and feedback. This is one of the most exciting steps in the process—you can feel and hold your idea in your hands! In this step, we perform functional testing either in a dry lab or wet lab at the Nicholson Center. During this testing, the inventor makes sure that the device performs as expected and provides feedback for a second design iteration. If an iteration is needed, we go back through the design process to make any tweaks needed for another round of 3D printing. After the device is finalized, the inventor can take the design and continue down the path to commercialization!  

Nicholson Center is excited to offer this new service line within our surgical training facility. Lean on the team and their expertise as you take your idea into a physical prototype design. To learn more about how Nicholson Center can support you with your invention, visit: 



Topics: #3DPrinting, #PrototypeLab

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