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Meet VirtaMed: “For us nothing is impossible”

June 28, 2016

Our development technician Daniel Jiroudek takes an idea and turns it into something we can hold in our hands. His passion is to create objects that have a function – for example an unusually curved uterus for an embryo transfer simulator. In short, Daniel is our MacGyver.

When VirtaMed starts developing a new simulator, our product managers and hardware developers create the idea in cooperation with medical experts. When that idea has matured into drawings on paper or computer screen, the developers turn to Daniel and ask if these drawings could be implemented in the third dimension. And although sometimes it might take a series of complicated steps to reach the desired result, Daniel has never had to say no. If it’s within the scope of physical reality, Daniel will find a solution to make it happen.

Daniel’s task is to create the very first prototype of each of our products, whether it’s a shoulder, a knee, a hip or a pelvis. There are several tricks to accomplishing this, and often it means making a mold; Daniel takes the drawings and comes back with tangible objects that other hardware developers and medical experts can try out. Once everyone is happy with the end result, this master prototype can be used for serial production.

“Building and finding solutions is what my life is all about”

When Daniel leaves the office after a day of developing, soldering, building and mold making, he often enters his home laboratory to do some more developing, soldering, building, and mold making. He doesn’t even try to separate his work hours from his off time; he spends both of them doing what he loves. Daniel’s home laboratory has a whole spectrum of machinery for mixing silicones, curing plastics, measuring, soldering and SMD soldering, just to name a few common uses, all accumulated during some thirty years of devotion. In fact, his workshop is so well equipped that when Daniel needs to solve a particularly tricky problem, he withdraws into his own laboratory for a few hours—or days—until he has a result.

VirtaMed’s history is full of tough problems with successful solutions, and one example is the PelvicSim™ simulator for IUD placement. As all VirtaMed simulators feature virtual reality with original tools, they need to have very carefully positioned magnetic transmitters that enable the tracking of each subtle movement of the tools—every 10th of a millimeter counts. In most simulators this transmitter can be screwed securely and accurately onto a hard surface, but some anatomic model designs require the transmitter to be fitted with soft glue on a flexible silicon surface. As if this wasn’t taxing enough, Daniel had to find a way to repeat the task endlessly with the same accuracy during serial production. Which is exactly what he did: with the help of a carefully crafted and tested mold for the transmitter, the device can now be glued just right every single time such an anatomic model is built.

The pelvic transmitter was an elegant solution to a difficult challenge, but Daniel’s most difficult VirtaMed project was the first prototype of the embryo transfer simulator. The simulator comes with several different exchangeable uteri, and many of them have very unusual shapes and tricky passageways in order to give trainees some sorely needed experience in rare and difficult anatomies before encountering one in real life. If the cervical shapes look complicated on paper and feel challenging when navigated with a transfer catheter, they were even more difficult to cast in a single piece. Yet with the help of some wax and a couple of other hacks Daniel was again able to produce prototypes that were then serialized.

“My interests range from microcosm to macrocosm, but they all have something to do with science”

At VirtaMed Daniel deals with objects visible to the naked eye, but he also needs to understand the microscopic world that dictates the behavior of different materials. This is nothing new to him: before joining VirtaMed four years ago Daniel worked as a technician in many laboratories, for example with a Zurich University research group that studied new materials; in other words, his job was to investigate the microcosm with an electron microscope. Daniel is also interested in the other end of the spectrum: he owns various telescopes and loves to dive into the world of heavenly bodies.

This range of physical phenomena helps him understand how nature works, and Daniel says he sees many parallels between the different orders of magnitude: “You can see that nature has a plan, and it’s the same one from atoms through the solar system to galaxies. And it’s beautiful!”

In the end it all lands on Daniel’s work table as things he can touch, objects he can weigh in his hand; it’s material he can control, elements he can form, mold, solder, and cut. And after Daniel releases his creations, they get melted together with virtual reality, and the result is something uniquely precious. “It’s like a fantasy, really”, Daniel summarizes.

Would you like to know more?

Bathsheba Sculptures

This page has beautiful sculptures, and the science-inspired glass etchings are particularly inspiring.

Think Geek

Here’s a website for buying all things geeky; useful and useless gadgets with a science twist.