Thinking Ahead Project 5 | Reducing medical waste.

Single-use mentality in the medical industry

Our fifth thinking ahead project gives attention to a highly topical problem. The earth is filled up with it and its residues are extremely harmful for the environment and all living things: plastic waste. Savio Mathew Mukachirayil dealt with this issue during his internship at WILDDESIGN in Gelsenkirchen – because there also is a need for improvement in the medical industry concerning this matter. One-time use and then thrown away…

Savio experienced the disposal of such a single-use tool and chose it for his project: the laryngoscope. His approach gives us a medical design, that is also devoted to the environment.

What is a laryngoscope?

Laryngoscopes are applied in different situations – ENT doctors use them, or they are used in emergency situations, for example. Savio’s idea relates to laryngoscopes that are used to intubate patients during surgeries. The tools have a handle with a battery inside and an attachable blade, that is available in different sizes. The device includes a light source, that illuminates the larynx, so that an intubation tube can be inserted.

Savio’s process of innovation

Savio took a look at the usual utilization process. He detected a couple things: the blade, handle and battery are delivered in separated plastic packaging. When the different parts are put together, a LED-light is activated. After the intubation, the blade, handle and battery are thrown out. The battery is only used once, so that it does not discharge during a treatment.

After checking the utilization, Savio examined the interests of doctors and patients and the regulation regarding the intubation in hospitals. A safe and clean work experience is important for doctors. They have to pay attention not to hurt or even injure the patients. Constitutional and efficient processes are fundamental for hospitals as institutions.

A successful, safe treatment and fast recovery are essential for the patient. Savio found room for improvement in these interests and expressed his goal: to create a laryngoscope that enables a comfortable surgery for doctors and reduces plastic as flammable waste at the same time.

He developed three detailed concepts with different focuses and evolved one of them until the final design was done.

Many sketches for three concepts

Savio produced sketches and prototypes, drew their utilization processes, and did material research for all his concepts. Afterwards, he picked one of them. Its user journey is structured like this:

  1. The blade and handle are still delivered in separated packaging. The blade is new, but the handle was cleaned and the light source has been charged after the last procedure.
  2. The opened handle is put into the light source’s charging station and pulled back out. In doing so, the light source is released by the charging station.
  3. Now, the handle encloses the light and is being closed.
  4. The PLA blade is being attached to the handle.
  5. Intubation of the patient.
  6. Without removing the intubation tube, the laryngoscope is taken out of the mouth.
  7. The blade is being detached from the handle and thrown away.
  8. The handle is opened up and put into the charging station again. While doing so, the light source detaches from the handle and recharges.
  9. The handle is sent to sterile preparation for reprocessing.

Savio tested the handle’s form and ergonomics for the final concept. He compared the handle to various other handles and devices, for example to a cordless screwdriver – which also needs to have a firm grip while holding it. The laryngoscope is held from different angles while intubating. That is why the doctor’s elbow and wrist positions vary.

Design-related conclusion: an ergonomic handle with the correct weight distribution. A comfortable handling for the doctor is the result. The weight is distributed to the lower part of the handle, so that the tool is under control from higher positions. Savio drew sketches for possible forms and built models of handles to test the ergonomics. He decided on an elliptical form, that has a comfortable handling and does not limit doctors in their movements.

The environment-friendly solution

The laryngoscope consists of diverse components and materials: the stainless-steel handle is easy to clean and is reprocessed after the treatments for repeated use. The PLA blade is still disposed after the usage due to hygienic reasons, but the material is biodegradable. Another benefit: the light source and energy supply are encapsulated within the handle and can be reused. Because of the transparency, the LED-light is directed to the tip of the blade. That way, it illuminates the trachea well. All parts of the appliance are seamlessly put together.

The patients’ and doctors’ needs are taken into consideration, too: the smooth edges of the blade reduce the risk of injury in the throat. The intubation can be easily guided because of a deflector, and flexible work is possible thanks to the ergonomic handle.

Savio divides the components in single- and multiple-use and finishes with an approach for a current typical single-use product, that also addresses the problem of plastic waste. At the same time, the student takes the patients’ and doctors’ comfort into account. Thank you for this inspiring design!

If you like this concept or single aspects of it, or if you think we should continue working on it, please let us know. We look forward to receiving your feedback at or via the e-mail button below.

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Jule writes about design processes and our medical design projects.

Originally written by Jule Opp, 30. November 2020. Last updated 13. January 2023


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