More than 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, according to the World Health Organization. So, when Italian pharmaceutical company, ChiesiFarmaceutici, developed a new medicine in the form of a powder, they turned to product development firm Cambridge Consultants for a revolutionary inhaler design. The result of the collaboration is the NEXThaler, a dry powder inhaler with an innovative design.
“Our brief from ChiesiFarmaceutici was to design an intuitive and simple to use inhaler. We started with a blank sheet of paper, and worked our way through a number of different concepts,” explains Matthew Allen, drug delivery program director at Cambridge Consultants.
Through brainstorming, Cambridge developed many ways to achieve the objective; however, the primary focus was to keep the device simple and easy to use.
Designing for Simplicity
“There were many stages of development,” explains Allen. The first stages included conversations and sketches on whiteboards. Next, the team began molding foam prototypes for handling. "We used engineering foam that was hand formed with a scalpel, that way we could have a physical model to demonstrate size and shape of different concepts.”
Using such prototyping tools allowed the designers to iterate models quickly, and to get physical designs into the hands of users for feedback. “As the concepts became more refined, we held early stage user studies using 'looks like' prototypes manufactured with stereolithography,” he adds. The proof of principle models were used to further test the functionality of the device.