Protolabs are the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. Using advanced injection moulding, CNC machining and 3D printing technologies we can produce parts within days, resulting in an unprecedented speed-to-market value for product designers and engineers worldwide.
Unfortunately, a large number of athletes suffer head trauma every year, not least in physical team sports such as football, rugby, martial arts and ice hockey. PolarCool’s PolarCap® system aims to rapidly lower brain temperature in a controlled manner after head trauma, right at the sports facility where the injury occurred. The design-product bureau OIM Sweden was commissioned to design and develop the PolarCap system and has worked closely with Protolabs to find the optimal design for the injection molded housing for the cooling unit of the PolarCap system. This article discusses the iterative digital design process and how Protolabs has been able to support the development of this innovative product.
Swedish BrainCool is an innovative medical technology company that develops products for medical cooling for stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, oral mucositis, migraine and traumatic brain injury.
In 2018 the company PolarCool was spun off from BrainCool, to specialize in medical cooling in the field of sports and athletics.
BrainCool products are used by trained healthcare professionals. PolarCool’s PolarCap® System, on the other hand, was developed with the aim of quickly and controlled lowering the brain temperature after a head trauma, directly at the sports accommodation where the injury occurred.
Concussions common in sports
Unfortunately, a large number of athletes suffer head trauma every year, not least in physical team sports such as football, rugby, martial arts and ice hockey.
Athletes often have elevated body and brain temperatures when they exercise, and if they injure their heads, the higher temperature can exacerbate brain damage.
The best thing in such a situation is to be able to quickly lower the temperature of the brain, called hypothermia, the same way you put ice on a muscle injury.
The difference is that lowering the temperature of the brain must be done under controlled conditions, because lowering it too quickly, for example by an ice bath, can exacerbate damage.
The PolarCap system consists of a helmet and a portable cooling unit, making it easy to use directly at the sports facility or at the injury site, even by those who are not medically trained.
The advantage of the PolarCap system is also that it can be used preventively, even if only a concussion is suspected, until the athlete has been able to go to the doctor for a check-up, even if it later turns out that no injury has occurred.
Cooling as a treatment method for concussion has been shown to generate positive effects in most studies, both experimental and clinical.
The PolarCap system has been evaluated in a large clinical trial in ice hockey with results showing that the recovery time for treated players is significantly reduced.
Notably, and perhaps more importantly, the results showed a significant reduction (more than 70 percent) in prolonged absences among players receiving cold treatment.
The product is currently used by the Swedish Hockey League, among others, and since the 2018/2019 season there are two PolarCap systems at every game.
Erik Andersson is the CEO of PolarCool. He is a former elite hockey player who had to hang up his skates due to repeated concussions.
He sees a great need for these kinds of solutions in many sports. PolarCool already has a number of users in Europe, including the German championship club Adler Mannheim, the Swiss Zurich SC and HC Davos.
In addition, an agreement has recently been signed with the Swedish elite football club Hammarby Football, which will include the use of the PolarCap system in its concussion routines.
“We see great potential for the PolarCap system in a number of sports around the world. Unfortunately, players and practitioners are often hit in the head and the research results speak for themselves,” said Erik Andersson, CEO of PolarCool.
“For elite athletes, like I was, it is extremely important to reduce the effects of repeated concussions.
In addition, it is positive for both the individual and the club if the player can play again sooner, both from a health and financial point of view. The results show that the PolarCap System increases the odds.”
Iterative digital design process
The design product bureau OIM Sweden was commissioned to design and develop the PolarCap system and they worked closely with Protolabs to find the optimal design for the injection molded housing for the cooling unit of the PolarCap system.
Today, it is important for design engineers to quickly and easily arrive at the best design solutions and bring products to market.
Protolabs’ proprietary automated quote solution means the customer uploads their CAD design through their website, receives immediate feedback on productivity and costs, and prototypes are delivered within one day.
Thanks to Protolabs’ automated tool, we discovered early on that the first design, with the lid molded as a single part, would be unmanufacturable because it was too large for the injection molding machines,” said Arash Golshenas, co-founder and CTO at OIM.
“This is something you really want to discover early in development, rather than at the end, just before the product goes into production.” OIM used Protolabs’ automated tools throughout the iterative innovation process to find optimal solutions.
At the end of the process, there were also opportunities to talk in detail with the company’s experienced technical experts, which also facilitated the project. Arash explains:
“With the online tool, we were always able to track the cost implications, depending on our design. Improvements in one area of design sometimes cause problems elsewhere.
By being able to see the consequences of the changes, it was possible to create an optimal design. It was also an obvious advantage to discuss the technical experts from Protolabs in detail towards the end of the project.
” “We chose Protolabs because they are fast and efficient and can deliver prototypes very quickly. There is no one to beat them when it comes to injection molding.
The development of the product took place in the middle of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, so it was also important to have a development partner not too far away.
When the world is concerned, it is safer to have solutions close to home.” said Arash. Erik Andersson, CEO of PolarCool, concluded:
“The development work has been pivotal in creating a good product that can be used in arenas and by non-healthcare professionals, and is also cost-effective to produce.
We are very pleased with how the cooperation with Protolabs has been completed and they have met all our requirements.”
Moving from Prototype to Production
PolarCool’s demand for accelerated product development and time-to-market is resonating in the market. With intense pressure to validate designs quickly, increasingly savvy manufacturers — and their design teams — are looking ahead, beyond the prototyping stage and thinking about the final product. Click here to read more about how to design prototypes with production in mind or feel free to contact Protolabs on +44 (0) 1952 683 047 or. [email protected].