The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) is home to a unique service within DoD: the Medical Prototype Development Laboratory (MPDL). Under the direction of the Medical Support Systems Project Management Office (MSS PMO), USAMMDA employs a small team of engineers and engineering technicians who work to design and build prototypes, laboratory testing equipment, and other devices designed to get products to the field.
We are able to get the products to the field to support the U.S. Forces. We work to build solutions, whether it be medical materiel or aiding a researcher with unique laboratory testing devices,” said Mark Brown, chief of the MPDL. “Clearly we must consider requirements, capability, capacity, and priorities.”
The MPDL, or the “Shop” as it is nicknamed, does not serve exclusively USAMMDA. It provides support and services to the other U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command laboratories, as well as to the other U.S. military branches, such as the Air Force.
Recently, the Air Force contacted the MPDL for assistance in modifying an existing product to meet its casualty evacuation needs. The Air Force wanted the Shop to redesign the Special Medical Emergency Evacuation Device (SMEED), originally developed by SSG Eric Smeed in 2000.
The SMEED is a mobile platform that attaches to litters, providing a staging area above the patient for lifesaving medical equipment. The original SMEED was designed to hold bulkier, more cumbersome equipment than is used today. While the SMEED offers a valuable service, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Special Operations Surgical Team needed a lighter-weight, more flexible design to more effectively accomplish their mission.
“During the early stages of development, Smeed worked with the Shop to refine his product,” Brown said. “We produced a dozen prototypes and aided in the production of the technical data package, so we are very familiar with the product.”
The Air Force worked with the Shop on the requirements for an improved SMEED, said Steve Hawbecker, Director of the MSS PMO. “After prototyping a few designs, the team was able to come up with a lighter and more flexible device supporting their unique mission,” Hawbecker said.
The new version of the SMEED has a single litter attachment designed to hold surgical instruments, as well as medical equipment with the addition of a tandem litter attachment.
“There are currently eight working prototypes being tested and evaluated in theater by AFSOC medics,” Brown said.
According to Brown, the Shop will continue to work with the Air Force to evaluate the process, analyze test results, and monitor user evaluations.
“This information is used to refine the product,” he explained. “This process is designed to be linear, but the fact of the matter is, this is not always the case. However, it is this process that makes a good product a great one.”
This is the second time the SMEED has been brought to the MPDL. The first time was to help with the original development. It seems only fitting that it be brought back to the Shop for modifications to keep up with the times.
“Working on products like the SMEED is an opportunity to play a small role in a much larger effort of providing world class medical products to those who have dedicated their lives to defending our freedom,” Brown said.
- CAREY PHILLIPS is a USAMMDA Public Affairs Specialist. She holds a B.A. in communications with a concentration in visual communications from Framingham State College and an M.S. in management with a concentration in marketing from the University of Maryland.