A display of engineering creativity has earned industrial design firm Praestet a contract to supply 50 of its Symba paediatric beds to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH), with three beds already delivered to the Parktown-based paediatric hospital.
An improvement on the old “cage bed” normally seen in the paediatric wards at hospitals, the Symba also holds a competitive advantage, pricewise, to paediatric beds that have been designed and manufactured overseas, Praestet director Jed Aylmer told Engineering News Online.
The 27-year-old product designer explained that the idea for the Symba bed, which is 98% locally manufactured, was developed in 2013 in his final year as a student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
“My supervisor was pressing me for an idea and I learned about the [NMCH], [which got me] thinking I should do something for them,” he said.
Designing a paediatric bed held several requirements, including safety, hygiene, mobility and promotion of easy access. Funded by the Technology Innovation Agency, through a R500 000 seed funding facility, as well as support from UJ, Aylmer was able to develop the product from a concept to market readiness.
“Symba’s main design [involves] a large plastic rotor-moulded base, which is supported by a stainless steel cradle. About 60% of the product is plastic, with the stainless steel acting as the handles and runners, but the cot sides are clear,” he explained, adding that this allowed for better viewing of a patient.
He further noted that, unlike the standard cage paediatric cot that can only open on two sides, the Symba bed is able to open on all four side, allowing doctors and nurses easier access to a patient, particularly in emergency situations.
“Normally, when a child needs to get incubated or undergo a tracheotomy procedure, the child needs to be flipped perpendicular, which poses some challenges,” Aylmer said.
The bed also allows staff to change positions, maintaining good body alignment and changing a patient’s positioning regularly. Like an adult hospital bed, the Symba bed can either be placed in the Trendelenburg's position, the Fowler position, the Sims' position or any other position the patient requires.
“In the normal paediatric cots, only the feet can be lifted above the head and nursing staff often have to stuff pillows behind a child to equal this out,” Aylmer quipped.
He also designed the NMCH play areas’ play walls as well as functional sculptures around the hospital. He explained that the original figurines for the sculptures were made by children, which were then “blown up” and three-dimensionally printed to the 3-m-plus sizes found in the hospital.
Looking ahead, Aylmer said his company is looking to start manufacturing the Symba beds from a consolidated area. “The delivery of these beds is very exciting. From there, we are looking to set up as a medium-sized enterprise, with a factory, assembly lines and sales and distribution teams.”
The company will also focus on designing other products in the medical field, including complementary products for the Symba bed, as well as other products in paediatric care sphere, such as bassinets and incubators.