May 30, 2013

3D Printing IP - Is a Star Trek Replicator in our near future?

Most of us have heard about 3D printing - the ability to "print" or manufacture a three dimensional object from a computer file. What was once an expensive process is becoming more mainstream as costs drop. "Additive manufacturing" (a term some believe is more descriptive of the technology) has moved beyond developing industrial prototypes to being pursued by the biotech and medical communities at warp speed. Doctors are using the technology and data from individual patients to print 3D organ models before an operation to better understand the personal physical nuances of the procedure, and some universities are partnering with hospitals to create medical devices that would be resorbed in the body. It's easy to see how the public could join Star Trek fans and soon envision walking up to an ATM-like device (a Replicator) and ordering whatever they want - if the business and legal minds can agree how.

What are the legal and IP ramifications about this new process? To be determined. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a meeting on April 25 to better understand the technology. The first 3D printing patent was granted in 1977, so the technology is in the public domain. With such a potentially pervasive technology, hopefully a consensus roadmap for addressing the intellectual property issues (including regulatory approvals from the FDA and other agencies) will be forthcoming. Several IP firms in the U.S. and EU already have these issues on their radar.

Any new technology can challenge the IP community; let's hope we don't retard the advancement of 3D printing - and disappoint Gene Roddenberry.

The author is with The CECON Group, Inc, which provides science and engineering experts in a multitude of disciplines, such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical, materials engineering, chemistry, and medical devices.

May 23, 2013

Copper Health Benefits Drawing More Attention

The use of copper with its antimicrobial effects is getting more mainstream attention by medical device manufacturers and hospital facilities.  While the use of copper and other metals has been touted since the 1850s (physician Paracelsus, Germany) as an anti-inflammatory agent and general promoter of good health, and more recently attributed to reducing arthritis pain, universities and other institutions have conducted scientific studies to understand and measure the benefits of copper.  The metal destroys bacteria by coaxing the organism to donate electrons to it, resulting in the production of free radicals within the cell. The result is damage to bacterial DNA and cell proteins.

Laboratory studies have demonstrated copper’s broad spectrum antimicrobial efficacy at room temperature and humidity against bacteria (MRSA), fungi (Aspergillus niger) and viruses (including Influenza A (H1N1)). Following a review of such detailed scientific data, copper was officially recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency and is now registered to make public health claims.

Why the recent interest?  In the United States, 4.5% of hospitalized patients develop hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), resulting in an estimated 100,000 deaths and adding $35.7–$45 billion to healthcare costs.  Patients with HAI also have longer lengths of stay (21.6 vs 4.9 days), higher readmission rates within 30 days (29.8% vs 6.2%), and greater mortality (9.4% vs 1.8%).

The use of antimicrobial copper on surfaces such as bed railings and door handles in hospital settings can reduce the number of HAIs by 58%, according to Chicago Journals . In contrast to the traditional cleaning procedures used within hospitals, the antibacterial effect of copper surfaces is permanent and not prone to antibiotic resistance.
So, look for more visible future applications utilizing copper’s anti-bacterial properties, including current uses as a water purifier, fungicide, and antifouling agent.

The author is with The CECON Group, Inc., which has been providing  technical experts and metallurgical experts to the medical device and health care communities since 1985.


May 10, 2013

No More Dropped Cell Phone Calls ? Consultant Awarded Patent for Intelligent Signal Booster

CECON Consultant #  1595  was awarded a patent recently for technology that will boost cellular phone signals.

The present generation of non-intelligent boosters operates over the entire cellular and PCS spectra with no selective filtering, and with no ability to de-activate in urban areas.  They amplify and  rebroadcast any signal that they happen to pick up so when a cellular or PCS subscriber experiences chronic dropped calls, the chances are good that a broadband signal booster is the culprit.
The newly patented intelligent signal boosters know when to turn themselves on or off by incorporating GPS location sensing plus an electronic map of a wireless provider’s coverage area. The boosters amplify only on necessary channels because they have an electronic memory storing the frequencies of license for a particular carrier at a particular location.

Read more about this new technology here.

The author is a CECON consultant and co-inventor of the technology.  He is an expert in cellular telephony, radar, and radio wave transmissions. To learn more about this consultant, click here