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How to Build a Medical Device Prototype in CAD: Beginner's Edition

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

If you’re like me, you have no clue where to start when it comes to designing a medical device. But maybe you’re curious and just don’t know where to turn to figure it out. Well, the first step to creating a medical device prototype is product design. Let me take you with me through the process of designing one of Vita Group’s own projects to better understand how to design a medical device from scratch: beginner’s edition.

Step 1: Designing a concept sketch.

Dimensions for CAD

We begin each design by visualizing the product and transferring that image from mind to paper. The device should be thoroughly planned out, with each side’s measurements marked accordingly. We sketched out our own project with measurements (as shown). Be sure to include all sides, as well as a top and bottom view. Make sure to draw out features, benefits, materials, colors, user visual cues, etc.

Step 2: Input measurements into Solidworks

3D CAD model

So now that you have your measurements, we need a way to bring those drawings to life. For this second step, you’re going to need a computer program called Solidworks that builds CAD 3D models. You input the measurements similarly to your drawing, making sure each selected part and side are labeled accurately and drawn to dimensions. This part of the process allows for a digital visual of your product, offering a 3D viewing from every angle. In our case, you can see an angle of our project as a 3D model. If the digital image looks the way you envisioned, congratulations - you’ve made it to step 3.

Step 3: Run the 3D printer

3D printer printing prototype

We could go into length on different 3D printers and processes, but that would be way past the goal of this article - this is for beginners (haha). Once the Solidworks 3D CAD file is ready, you’ll run your design through the 3D printer software. Then set up the settings for the 3D Printer. This is oversimplifying these steps. The printer starts by outlining the product, much like the sketch you’ve drawn in step 1. The printer begins from the bottom and builds upwards layer by layer. You can see in our version that the printer is beginning the product with an outline, taking the input measurements to create our real-life product.

Step 4: Peel off print from metal base

Printed prototype

Now this is the satisfying part. When the product finishes printing it will come out connected to a sheet, which is the base the printer started printing onto, as shown in this image of our own product. When the product comes out, begin to peel off the product from the sheet.

Step 5: Designing different versions of product

2 different prototype versions

Many times, the first product is just a draft and there are multiple measurements that are not correct. There may need to be multiple refinements and updates to certain features of your product. Here is a side-by-side of the first and second version of our product. Though both versions are similar in shape and size, the first version was a tan color and the second white. On the first version, the outside and inside are smooth and shiny, whereas in the second version it is a matte finish with a lined-patterned texture on the inside and outside. Also on the inside is a brown padding located on the wing of the product. You can see in the second version we removed the padding. Both versions have similar structures inside with the edge pieces in corresponding locations. However, the second version is heavier and sturdier than the first.

And lastly, here is a side-by-side of all three versions. You can see how we finetuned the features, the first being the furthest back and the current model is in front.

All 3 prototype versions

Remember to not be discouraged as you revisit the drawing board to finetune your product features and benefits. Then, repeat steps 1-4 until you’re satisfied with the outcome.

Are you ready to learn more about developing your innovative medical device ideas? Book a call to meet with our CEO Jason Scherer.


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