Midas Pattern Company made the casting pattern for the bases used by the Metrasens Ferroguard brand of MRI safety systems in a product design project that has won a prestigious national award. Appointed to the project by a Coventry-based team of industrial designers Midas was also responsible for finishing the bases once the castings returned from the foundry.
When QinetiQ, one of the world’s leading defence technology companies, developed flux gate metal detection, the Government was keen to see what the commercial world would make of it. One of the main target applications was MRI environments in hospitals and clinics. Ferromagnetic objects taken through MRI doors can lead to serious injury, unplanned MRI restarts or MRI damage. When ferrous objects reach the MRI magnet's fringe field, they can be attracted strongly, at high speed, towards the magnet's core.
This frightening and dangerous phenomenon is known as ‘the projectile effect’. Serious projectile incidents have involved objects such as gas cylinders, chairs, respirators, IV poles and smaller but equally dangerous items such as scissors and laryngoscopes. In the past 10 years there have been 389 MRI related events, including nine deaths.
The flux gate metal detection system was developed originally to look for submarines without their knowledge. It’s unique in that it does not generate a magnetic field (as traditional metal detectors do) but instead senses small changes in the magnetic flux in the environment around it. This not only allows the product to be very sensitive and easily tuned to look for different sizes of metal objects, it also means it can be used in close proximity to hospital MRI scanners where traditional detectors struggle to compete with the huge magnetic flux that MRI's generate.
To take Ferroguard to market, a QinetiQ spin-out company was formed, called Metrasens. However, bringing such a product into the commercial world demands a different approach in terms of product design and so Metrasens approached the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), who in turn put them in touch with a suitable product design company.
The design company were tasked with commercialising the product and applied contextual research, commercial objectives and benefit mapping insights. In addition, they went to the audience to understand all of the stakeholders’ needs throughout the supply chain. Armed with these insights the design company and MAS set about identifying the right suppliers. Knowing Midas and its capabilities for a number of years meant there was only one port of call for the product’s base.
“It costs no more to tool a poor product than it does to tool a good product,” says Mr May-Russell. “We knew Midas could achieve the levels of quality we were after. The pattern for the one-piece cast base was important – clearly it had to give good yield, but we were also seeking a good finish.”
Midas has been manufacturing precision pattern equipment and foundry tooling for over 25 years. The company also offers machining and most types of surface finish, coating and painting. For the Metrasens Ferroguard, Midas designed and produced the pattern equipment, outsourced the castings to a reputable foundry and finished them in-house to a high standard.
As the parts were to be used within a medical arena, the surface finish and quality was important. With sand castings the normal route is for the foundry to apply basic fettling and power coating. This does the trick if the parts are commercial and general purpose, but the objective was to make Ferroguard look high quality and appealing. As a result, Midas final-finished and painted the parts to its own high standards, taking a standard part and making it look great.
Over the first 12 months following the launch of the new version at a trade show, sales grew by 800%, of which 80% is exported. The product also won Best Industrial Product Design at the annual Design Week Awards.”