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New Surgical Power Tool System

Alexander Abele


In collaboration with

Aesculap / B.Braun

Umeå Institute of Design


Master Thesis


“Orthopedic Surgery is dangerous…for the surgeon”

The thesis project is about a new generation of a Surgical Power Tool from B.Braun with a focus on the ergonomics and a simplified way to monitor and maintain instruments digitally for better customer service.


Several challenges are facing the healthcare sector in the future ranging from an aging society, an increasing population with higher expectations and the consequential cost pressure. In the last year’s companies in this sector focused mostly on increasing product quality and performance. While the tech industry is changing quickly and is today a leading force of new digital and connective approaches, the healthcare sector is lagging!


My thesis goal was to examine the changing routines around the surgery room of the future and how Aesculap´s power tool can be adapted to upcoming challenges like robotics and improved ergonomics. I approached the project with an in-depth field study at Aesculap´s headquarter and at several hospitals. I talked with different users around the surgical tool cycle and accompanied orthopedic surgeries.


Nowadays, hospitals are pressured to optimize procedures and lower costs. Especially, orthopedic surgery is physically demanding for the ergonomics of the surgeon and tools wear out more quickly.

The result is an evolution of a surgical power tool to ease and support the surgeon’s work, increase the efficiency and flexibility of usage and at the same time offer more control and knowledge about the condition of the tools.

Project focus


Strategic Design


UI & UX (Service Design)


Industrial Design



– Result – 

Integrated second hand & more control

Additional safe grip possibilities increase the guidance and control of the tool even if the tool gets wet and slippery.  

High quality tool which is worth the money

Only a high-quality tool can improve the surgeon’s ergonomics but it needs to be flexible in usage at the same time to be worth the extra costs. 

Data supported tool cycle for better planning

Detailed information about usage frequency and condition can prevent failures and enhance the planning phase of surgeries.  

Enhanced customer service for maintenance

Due to cost pressure maintenance is not done regularly. But detailed information and a customized service can reduce the costs. 

Redesign of Acculan 3Ti


The main benefit is a reduction of pressure points around the handle for a comfortable and stable grip during usage. The thinner handle diameter allows a good grip even for smaller hands to gain a gender-neutral tool. The design offers visually several possibilities for a second grip by highlighting the areas through a texture change which also increases the slip resistance. The overall body is smooth and rounded without edges or sharp corners. All possible interactions with the device are in focus and clearly outlined for the user.

A second hand needs to be integrated on the adapters


The pistol handle is optimal for precision work. The surgeon shouldn´t apply pressure on the target because of moving bones. Instead, high-speed tools should ease the work. The pistol handle is designed for a one-hand grip but in real life, the surgeon places a second hand on the front of the tool which could be dangerous. Therefore, safety and ergonomics need to be applied on the adapters to allow a second grip when it is needed without hindering the visibility and reachability.

“A second hand is often essential for better ergonomics and tool control”

— Adapter explanation

01 | Oscillating saw adapter


The oscillating saw is one of the most used features for surgical power tools. The new adapter allows a second grip on the front of the device to counterbalance the oscillations which offer more control of the tool and a better cut outcome. The covered sawblade prevents the surgeon to come in contact with the saw blade edge and harming vibrations which previously could lead to destroyed gloves. An RFID chip is placed in all adapters to adjust the motor CPU settings to the appropriated adapters without additional steps.

By allowing to rotate the adapter, a flexible usage can be guaranteed without the need to change the front grip position. A release button is placed on the front bottom to remove or change saw blades. The top lid can be rotated for cleaning to prevent hidden areas.

— Smart saw blade attachment

02 | Drill/screw adapter


The upgraded drill adapter offers a second grip position for accurate targeting. The wave shape prevents the fingers from slipping over the front tip. Most of the drill bits have a flat area for the propulsion. A groove on the front visualizes the right direction when placing the bit to prevent unnecessary rotation of the bit to find the right direction. The black lid is getting wet and slippery during operation. To allow an enhanced grip the recess offers enough friction to pull back the lid to remove or change the adapters.

For a safer tool exchange between the scrub nurse and surgeon, the lock is placed on the bottom trigger to ease the usage and highlight the lock to ensure safe usage.

03 | Sternum saw adapter


The sternum cut is an important procedure for various interventions under the chest. It is decisive for the operation process and straight and clean-cut results in a better healing outcome for the patient. For this reason, it is necessary to integrate a second hand under the adapter. The surgeon can guide the tool over the patient´s body by a 90° angle. It offers a better cutting feeling and supports a straight orientation.

The visibility of the saw blade is improved and allows an ergonomic position of the surgeon. The release button of the saw blade serves also for a vertical orientation indication.

— Concepts in comparison 1-3

The new architecture allows the surgeon to place the second hand under the device for better orientation and balance. It doesn’t block visibility and leads to a better working posture and more control of the tool by slide the bottom hand over the chest. 

The oscillating saw adapter allows more freedom for various hand positions and still provides a safer grip. The closed top offers a better thumb position without being exposed to swing vibrations.

“Current status about the tool´s condition can prevent tool failures early on”

Enhanced tool management system
Data supported tool cycle, customized maintenance, knowledge about tool condition, better investment planning

The smartness is inside the battery


  • The tool can recognize which adapter is used
  • The battery can safe information about which tool and adapter was used
  • Application time and frequency can be saved
  • Data can be used for maintenance prognosis/diagnosis
  • Better overview and control about the system
  • The battery can adjust the motor to specific demands of each adapter
  • The measured current flow can give relevant information about the tool´s condition.

Data supported tool cycle 

The huge amount of instruments that needs to be cleaned and sterilized each day makes it hard to keep an overview. Lack of knowledge about the condition of the tools as well as insufficient maintenance causes unnecessary interruptions and increases the economic pressure. Now, created information inside the battery during usage can be used later on for a more precise diagnosis and prognosis.

Business impact | Now, the battery station serves as a data bank and can share the information into the tool management software. The battery collects data during usage and shares the information afterwards with the charging station.


Then the collected data can be shared wireless (cloud) or by Bluetooth for local data usage. It will be transferred in two ways from the charging station. If the infrastructure allows an integration inside the instrument management software, the up to date information can reduce upcoming tool failures during procedures. The second way is a customized service from Aesculap. A sales representative can transfer the data via Bluetooth to a computer/tablet and offer customized maintenance services as well as uses this knowledge for process optimization.

— Battery exchange

Current problem

The Acculan 3/4 series required an additional funnel to place the battery inside the tool before every procedure. The unsterile battery needed to be held from the surgery assistant and placed inside without touching the tool or the sterile person. A problem often occurred by changing a battery during operation when the funnel has been already used and a second time is forbidden. This situation can happen and forces surgery personnel to improvise. They need to remove and place a new battery carefully inside.

New solution

By attaching the lid to the battery, the sterile person can place and remove the battery alone. It is possible to take the battery with the new lid from the charging station or a second person puts the battery on the lid. An integrated funnel supports the operator and prevents the outer part of the tool to get unsterile. Also by changing the battery the lid can be easily removed and eases a battery exchange without additional accessories.

— My final thought

“Surgeons always want to give their best and treat patients with diligence. The instruments should be designed in the same way!”

— Master thesis exhibition

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