Albyn Medical Ltd. is a small company of 21 personnel based in Dingwall, North Scotland. UK. The company designs, produces and sells medical electronic equipment which is primarily used for the assessment of urinary and gastro-intestinal incontinence and obstruction.
The project shows how a small company who has been totally reliant upon third party suppliers can with the help of microelectronics take control of their total project from design through to production, thus controlling their own destiny.
The present product manufactured is a flow meter for medical applications used by medical practitioners and hospitals. The flow meter uses a specialised expensive bought in pre- programmed processor PCB from the USA which precluded further development of the unit also it was seen that the present unit was losing its competitive edge to the competition. Albyn Medical designed and built, using discrete components, the analogue circuitry interfacing the flow meter to the bought in processor board. The purpose of the project was therefore to improve Albyn Medicals competitive position by designing our own controller board which allowed us add features to improve market share and to release us from being dependent upon an external supplier.
The project, supported by Fuse, enabled Albyn Medical to redesign the urine flow meter using a micro-controller eliminating the need for the bought in PCB and hence the reliance on a third party for components. The micro-controller allowed a smaller unit to be produced using fewer components, it used less power and so capable of battery operation allowing the development of a portable device, an extensive LCD display provides the display of real time data. The micro-controller easily allowed the display to be customised for different languages facilitating ease of use. Storing data in nonvolatile memory allows data including an automatic date time stamp to be down loaded via a RS232 link into a host computer for the keeping of personal medical records.
The new product is manufactured at a reduced cost, with greater reliability due to the reduced component count and is easily customisable to accommodate different languages.
The duration of the project was 12 months as planned and the cost was kept within the budget of ECU 48k. The payback period for the new product is calculated to be one year. The return on investment will be a minimum of 100% per year over the life of the instrument, estimated to be three years giving a total ROI of 300%. However, new models of the instrument using the same hardware are planned to be introduced to service different language options. This will further increase the total ROI to over 300%.
Albyn Medical now have a product that competes very favourably with the competition and because of the knowledge gained have the ability to evaluate, cost, plan and develop complex electronic products.
The major lesson learned other than the ability to design with and programme micro-controllers is that with careful planning and monitoring complex projects can be estimated and completed to schedule.