Solution Nexus, LLC

in-depth

Designing Systems

Beam Energy Attenuation Machining (BEAM)

Here’s a deeper look at the skills and resources of Solution Nexus applied in the field – in this case, helping one of the country’s largest hospitals deliver world-class radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy is an aggressive and sometimes dangerous treatment with acute side effects.  One way to minimize the dangers and side effects is by treating with the increasingly popular Proton therapy– sparing healthy tissue around a tumor.  One way proton therapy achieves this is by using custom hardware assemblies, matched to the shape and depth of a tumor to shape and modulate the radiation beam. But a single patient will require several assemblies in a course of treatment, each one made precisely, just for them.

A leading proton centers challenged Solution Nexus to devise, design and develop a solution to interpret the output from the treatment planning software and create the set of commands required to automatically cut the masking hardware on CNC machine tools to the highest clinical standards. The resulting system, BEAM, is used seamlessly, saving hundreds of man-hours per week, thousands of dollars for the hospital per plan, while simultaneously improving patient care.

The Approach

The project began with a broad set of requirements from the hospital, the usual things like reliability, accuracy, and protection of patient information, after all we’re treating brain cancer.  But then the system needed to support all existing hardware, new hardware in storage, and whatever new hardware they may create in some indeterminate future.  Also, it should be agnostic to the type of fixturing and the machine tool used to cut the parts.  And above all else, do not place resource demands on the treatment-planning database. 

Designing a successful system begins with exhaustive research, not only in how things are done today, but to encompass technologies to leverage in solutions.  In this case we needed to go far beyond an understanding of the hardware and the dozens of potential configurations to automatically select among, diving deeper into everything from data structures, to the types of human behaviors that could negatively impact performance.

The Result

Next, we leveraged expertise in fabrication processes, mechanical design, relational databases, workflows, and user experience to reduce the system to a set of solvable patterns at each stage of the process.  The system creates highly accurate solid models in SolidWorks® through its API, outputs control documents, provides and intuitive web user interface to the scheduling and queuing process, before automatically creating efficient toolpaths.

BEAM has dramatically decreased machining costs for the hospital, while improving part quality.  It requires only minutes of maintenance per week, and rarely encounters a condition requiring human intervention.  Best of all, the center saw a six month ROI.

 

Great solutions capture the essence of its entire ecosystem

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