Bessel Creates Medical Devices for Educational and Commercial Success With Autodesk Fusion

Heather Miller Heather Miller November 10, 2023

3 min read

For the past 20 years, Chris Danek has focused on designing and developing medical devices, from the earliest stages through to commercial release. His latest venture, Bessel, delivers both new innovations and training for the future of medical device design and manufacturing.

Qualification Test Artifact in holder on stand in X-ray CT machine. Courtesy of W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

In addition to his “day job” at Bessel’s technical center in El Paso, Texas, Danek joined the University of Texas, El Paso as a visiting professor where he shares his expertise in mechanical engineering, product lifecycles, 3D printing, and more. 

Using Autodesk Fusion for projects across the United States

Bessel works with both established companies and startups to design new medical devices and components. For Danek, collaboration is crucial. And with Autodesk Fusion, they can collaborate with anyone, anywhere.  

“We needed a platform that would allow us to take modern approaches like generative design and collaborate as a team with designs in the cloud,” Danek says. “Finite element analysis simulation was also a must-have for us. These were all mandatory features that led us to Fusion. The workflow and integrating design and simulation as part of the product development lifecycle makes Fusion stand out.”  

Placing holder on stand. Courtesy of W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

Recently, Bessel helped a Birmingham, Alabama-based startup through multiple rounds of prototyping a handheld medical device. They used Fusion to design complex, 3D-printed molds to cast a flexible handle part with excellent touch, high flexibility, and liquid sealing using silicone and thermoplastic polyurethane.  

“We could successfully cast parts with flexible elements directly onto a 3D-printed rigid thermoplastic component, much like you would do in an over-molding process,” Danek says. “Fusion helped us implement a streamlined workflow from STEP file import of the part to mold design. We were able to design, 3D print, cast, and ship prototypes all within a 24-hour period.” 

Researching new applications with generative design

As a visiting professor at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, Danek also works with students to design some ambitious projects. One was using generative design in Fusion to create a new part for X-ray CT machines. 

X-ray CT machines are used to scan and view the interior of a three-dimensional object. They can be used by a variety of industries to ensure the strength of a part, especially for aerospace and medical devices.

This image from the X-ray CT shows the generatively designed fixture. The 6 black discs are the magnets (3 on the fixture, 3 on the holder) that provide preload for the kinematic coupling. Courtesy of W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

With generative design, Bessel engineer Andres Gutierrez collaborated with the Keck Center and student researchers to develop a modular fixture to hold these parts in place, specifically during the scan of metal additively manufactured parts. It was 3D printed and vigorously tested by the students and department for the final end-design result. This new fixture can help streamline the process, improve data from the CT scan, and increase accuracy. 

This image from the X-ray CT shows the GTADExP Qualification Test Artifact in the LW-PLA artifact holder. The holder uses 3-2-1 jig design principle and a flexure for preload to achieve kinematic constraint. Courtesy of W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

“This fixture needs to stand up to repeated test setups and runs while simultaneously minimizing deflections during machine operation,” Danek says. “The load cases from setup and handling governed the overall design. Even though it is a ‘print once’ fixture, it is important to minimize material use and print time for sustainability and increase productivity. Generative design in Fusion helped us do that much more efficiently compared to using traditional design methods. The aesthetics of the 3D-printed part are also a plus.” 

Doubling down on generative design

For Danek, generative design is an important component for both teaching students and Bessel’s own commercial success. He sees it as both informative and a source of inspiration. 

“We’re looking forward to using generative design more and more,” he says. “Sometimes we may run studies for inspiration just to see other options and broaden our thinking. We can get the inspiration for certain shapes that you never would have thought to try yourself as a designer.”

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