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Pacific Research Laboratories "boning up" for medical research and training

Ever wonder how surgeons hone their skills or practice new and difficult procedures? Plastic bone models have played an increasingly important role in educating medical students and patients, training orthopedic surgeons and testing medical devices.

Pacific Research Laboratories, Inc. of Vashon Island, Washington, is a leading producer of artificial bones, Sawbones®, designed to simulate the bone architecture as well as the bone's physical properties. These training models allow demonstration and practice of different procedures that can enhance medical research and treatment. Therefore, having true-to-life models are crucial.

During the last two decades, Pacific Research Laboratories has made a variety of bone structures synthetically -- by mimicking the architecture and strength of natural bone. Various aspects of bone shape, size and its complex internal structure make it difficult to manufacture artificial models. Products currently on the market have a hollow medullary canal with closed cell urethane foam interiors at the ends, not the open celled cancellous (the porous honeycomb structure inside bones) interiors found at ends of real bones. One of greatest challenges in simulating real bone is the modeling of cancellous bone.

Continuing to be a leader in the artificial bone market, the company has been working to develop these cancellous bone models.

In July 2000, WTC funded a project teaming Pacific Research with Dr. Susmita Bose of Washington State University's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering to develop the first artificial open-celled cancellous bone model. WTC's participation helped Pacific Research Laboratories speed up development and lower the company's financial risk in ultimately bringing a beneficial new product to market.

Using Sawbones provided by Pacific Research Laboratories, Dr. Bose and her colleagues have been experimenting with various materials and processes, trying to achieve the natural strength and architecture of cancellous bone. Materials used to make these bone models are polyurethane-based polymers, ceramic powders, and organic solvents. In the last year and a half, the team of researchers has developed some models attaining the proper architecture and is working to perfect the strength properties of real bone.

Related WTC links:

  • Pacific Research Laboratories is a WTC client

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  • Governor recognizes WTC's role during energy press conference

    Governor Gary Locke was one of the featured speakers at a press conference hosted by WTC in John M. Fluke Hall on November 16, 2001. The event announced the release of a study by Climate Solutions entitled, "Poised for Profit: How Clean Energy Can Power the Next High Tech Job Surge in the Northwest." According to the report, "the Pacific Northwest has the opportunity to be a global leader in the technology-based clean energy industry." This was reinforced by several Washington companies who exhibited products that included a biodiesel clean energy vehicle, a photovoltaic panel, a Magna Drive Adjustable Speed Drive (energy efficiency torque transfer technology) and a Micro Wind Turbine.

    The report, commissioned by a prominent group of Pacific Northwest utilities and economic development agencies, recommended public policy action to support technology development, commercialization and market development -- similar to the support provided more traditional high tech sectors in Washington by local and state governments.

    "We're on the threshold of an energy-efficiency revolution. If we're smart, as we've already proved in our high-tech industry, we'll stay a step ahead of the market and provide the clean-energy decade with the tools it needs," said Governor Locke. He is looking to WTC to provide some leadership for creating the state's energy cluster.

    The major market analysis concluded that aside from the public benefits of using cleaner energy sources, the current clean energy industry in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia is $1.4 billion a year and expected to grow to over $4 billion by 2021, employing an additional 12,000 jobs. On a global scale, the industry is expected to reach $180 billion over the next 20 years, about twice the size of the passenger and cargo industries.

    Related WTC links:

  • Northwest Energy Technology Collaborative

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  • WaFAST program corner

    Help to Washington companies in winning federal SBIR & STTR dollars for product development and commercialization is available via the WaFAST program. WaFAST is a consortium of state groups seeking to promote SBIR and STTR in the state.

    In the first three months of the program, 17 Washington companies received assistance.

    Twelve companies received counseling and information on proposal writing, pre-award preparation and cost proposal development, while five SBIR and STTR award winning companies reviewed their technology and business plans with panels of industry and university experts.

    Regional mentoring groups were organized in Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver, where the attendees learned the ins and outs of the SBIR and STTR programs and received first-hand coaching from previous winners.

    In mid May 2002, a statewide conference on SBIR and STTR will bring to Spokane federal agency staff, experts on SBIR and other resources and information.

    For previous SBIR or STTR winners looking to raise outside capital, "Eye on the Investor" programs will be offered in Spokane and the Tri-Cities. During the full day of training provided by WSU Tri-Cities Business Links and the Seattle-based Alliance of Angles, participants will gain insight and develop their own presentation approach based on the training and input of real investors.

    Consortium members include Columbia River Economic Development Council, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Economic Development Office, SIRTI, Washington Small Business Development Centers, Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development, WSU Tri-Cities Business Links, and WTC.

    Related WTC links:

  • SBIR Program

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  • Attendees 'see the light' at photonics workshop

    October 30, 2001 marked the culmination of the initial year of the WTC's Photonics Systems Initiative, as more than 90 participants gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bellevue for the first annual Photonics Workshop. The workshop was actually the fifth in WTC's series of workshops highlighting emerging areas of technology, with the first four centered on MEMS (microelectromechanical systems).

    Keynote speaker Phil Anthony, VP and General Manager, JDS Uniphase, and current IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society President, addressed the current weak photonics market head on. The overall rate of technological progress and corresponding efficiency improvement/cost reductions seen in telecommunications are unsurpassed, and photonics will play a major role in continuing this trend. Overbuilt carrier capacity, including a high percentage of unused ("dark") fiber, and a conservative investment climate have resulted in the current downturn in the fiberoptic industry, but continuing demand for higher speed, wider bandwidth telecommunications networks will drive the market after the present readjustment settles out.

    Invited speakers Rod Alferness, Lucent Bell Labs, and Nasser Peyghambarian, University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center, reinforced the keynote speaker's assessment, adding that convergence of optical and data networking will accelerate the growth already seen, and place higher demands on the level of technical innovation needed in materials, devices and systems architecture.

    The research and development challenge set out by the invited speakers provided a natural segue to presentations by the university researchers who are addressing those technical needs via funding by WTC under its Photonics Initiative.

    The workshop moderator, Paul Burrows, PNNL, kept the day's pace lively and upbeat, particularly during the concluding interactive session that featured over a dozen presentations by industry and university photonics technologists.

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    Lab equipment additions and upgrades keep pace with increased user activity

    Sparked by continuing growth of its user base, WTC's Microfabrication Laboratory has addressed various potential bottlenecks in its process capabilities, resulting in the addition of several key pieces of equipment.

    On the facilities side, the high-purity water plant has undergone a three-fold increase in its production capacity for 18 Meg-ohm de-ionized water. Used by practically all lab users, DI water is the lifeblood for critical chemical etching and cleaning processes. In addition, a remote level sensor has been installed on the liquid nitrogen (LN2) tank to automatically order delivery of LN2 at pre-set levels via a dedicated phone line. Both of these facilities additions will provide an uninterrupted supply of high purity water and nitrogen to the lab.

    Equipment additions include a second Brewer Scientific CEE Model 100 wafer photoresist spinner, duplicating the CEE spinner currently in the lab. In collaboration with Microvision, Inc. (Bothell), the lab will add a Tencor P-15 profilometer. This instrument is several generations newer than the lab's present AlphaStep 200 profilometer, which is seeing heavy use. Both profilometers provide the capability to measure feature sizes for microfabricated structures, but the P-15 allows measurements down to 1 Angstrom resolution, with 7.5 Angstrom repeatability, over a 200 mm scan length.

    Additional equipment additions include a K&S; Model 780 High Capacity automated wafer-dicing saw, acquired by Microvision, Inc. and located in the lab's backend room. This diamond blade saw, used to separate individual die on processed wafers, is a valuable addition and backup to the lab's manual Disco wafer saw.

    Related WTC links:

  • Microfabrication Laboratory

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