Alexander Fives, a TU Dublin Product Design student, has created a revolutionary device with the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) amongst healthcare professionals. The up-and-coming Product Designer has already had success with SmoothScan winning the University’s student entrepreneur accelerator ivenTUre and a Commendation Award in the HSE Design On the Frontline Innovation Awards.
Alexander has been obsessed with making things since he was a toddler, an obsession he had lots of opportunities to indulge in while studying Product Design at TU Dublin. “Product Design is all about creative problem-solving, and I have really enjoyed working with the end-user to address design problems that make a real difference to their lives.”
While researching his final year project, Alexander discovered that ultrasound practitioners have a remarkably high instance of RSI, symptoms of which include pain in the shoulder, neck, back and wrist. Over time these injuries get worse and require time out, resulting in staff shortages, with many required to work part-time or retire early.
As part of his final project, Alexander developed SmoothScan, which allows healthcare professionals to hold the ultrasound probe against the patient, reducing the force they must apply. “SmoothScan is used primarily for echocardiograms, but can also be used for other abdominal scans. As a result, ultrasound practitioners use far less force to hold the probe in place, mitigating the risk of injury and lessening the impact of pre-existing injuries.
Alexander produced a SmoothScan prototype as part of his final-year project, but he had the opportunity to test his idea by participating in the TU Dublin student entrepreneurship vehicle ivenTUre. The programme, funded by TU Dublin GROWTHhub, provides student innovators with the structure to explore their entrepreneurial concepts, test their hypotheses, use feedback to revise their assumptions and improve the design of their products or service.
After the programme, many participants receive support from academic schools, research centres and the knowledge transfer office at TU Dublin, while others go on to participate in New Frontiers, Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme funded by Enterprise Ireland and delivered in three TU Dublin locations – Grangegorman, Tallaght and Blanchardstown.
Following his success in ivenTUre and the HSE Design on the Frontline Innovation Awards, Alexander is progressing his design further with assistance from TU Dublin Innovation. “SmoothScan can make a big difference in the working lives of Ultrasound practitioners and reduce the pressure on healthcare systems as sonographers are forced to retire early or work fewer hours. I am working to secure a patent for SmoothScan, and I am excited to take it to the next level.”