“We set out to improve image quality and ease of use while drastically reducing production cost. I’m pleased to say that we succeeded on all three counts”
Skin cancer kills 60,000 every year, but when detected at an early stage treatment is very effective. SIAscopy—a technology developed by Symon Cotton on the basis of his PhD-thesis—has been shown to facilitate diagnosis. SIAscopy is based on combining images of the skin made under red, green, blue and infrared illumination, allowing visualisations of the distribution of melanin, blood and collagen in the skin.
SIAscans are made with a dedicated skin-imaging camera connected to a PC. Astron Clinica had been selling previous model SIAscopes in limited numbers for a few years, but it was clear that a redesigned product with lower manufacturing cost was required to support their planned rapid growth.
We came up with a number of possible product architectures. After building and testing rough proof-of-principle models we settled on using an OmniVision camerachip, USB2 connection and separate white LEDs to achieve a high quality dermatoscopic view. It also became clear early on that we would be able to undercut the already very agressive manufacturing cost target – which would expand Astron Clinica’s commercial options.
The concept design exercise and early models proved to be instrumental in securing funding. Annie Brooking, CEO of Astron Clinica: “The fact that we could use an early model to take skin images during a meeting with our investors convinced them that our plans and cost targets were realistic, and that the SIAscope V could be ready in time”.
We specified, designed and engineered all electronic circuits, optical components and mechanical parts from the ground up, taking into account the intended production volume. We layed out PCBs. Simulated lens systems. Did handling trials, looking at how users held the camera. And then built a number of prototypes.
Prototype to production
As production volume of the SIAscope V could be classified as “low to medium” we worked with Astron Clinica to find a local manufacturing partner with whom we then worked to get our design into production.
The new SIAscope V was introduced in March 2006 in conjunction with Astron Clinica’s release of the skin imaging application suite DERMETRICS. Both have been favourably received. Symon Cotton, CSO and founder: “We set out to improve image quality and ease of use while drastically reducing production cost. I’m pleased to say that we succeeded on all three counts”.
Since late 2009 the Siascope V and MoleMate products are marketed by Biocompatibles UK, which was acquired by BTG plc in January 2011.