the challenge

In the US, an orthopedic surgeon performs an average of 32 procedures a month. Many of these medical procedures are plate and screw placements that involve bone drilling and require a depth gauge to determine correct screw lengths. Inaccurate depth measurements can result in incorrect screw lengths and surgical complications. To prevent this, McGinley Orthopedics, which develops innovative engineering solutions for surgical procedures, sought Speck's medical device design expertise to develop the IntelliSense Drill with depth sensing capabilities.


An all-in-one drill with balanced handle and weight distribution -- ultimate comfort.

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our approach

The first step in creating a tool that combines drilling with depth measuring was to develop a cost and time reducing solution. A typical bone drilling procedure is a 2 step manual process in which 1) the surgeon drills a hole through the bone based on feel, and then 2) inserts a depth gauge into the hole to determine the correct screw insertion depth. There is always the risk that the drill will plunges too far, causing damage to surrounding blood vessels and tissue. In order to achieve the correct depth, the surgeon often attempts the drilling process more than once. The goal of the IntelliSense Drill was to combine the 2 steps into a simple 1 step automated procedure that accurately determines drill bit location.

To fully understand the needs of orthopedic surgeons, our team of researchers observed bone drills usage across different practices, exploring workflow from preparation to sterilization to disposal. We highlighted ways in which the next generation bone drill could optimize this workflow, as well as elements that could improve the overall user experience, including the integration of LED lights. These lights (now patented) illuminate the surgical field, eliminating shadows typically cast by overhead surgical lights onto surgeons’ hands and tools.

Our research shaped the industrial design and mechanical engineering process, with a focus on depth measuring, edge detection, and ergonomics. To allow the drill to be lightweight, small, and autoclavable, we designed a separate monitor with touch screen technology that displays precise real-time depth sensing measurements and permits users to change drilling options. In the end, our work resulted in an all-in-one drill with balanced handle and weight distribution, creating ultimate comfort.

what made the difference

While features such as In-Sight Surgical Lighting™ and lightweight design stand out among many of today’s orthopedic drills, what makes the IntelliSense Drill so unique is its ability to completely eliminate manual depth measuring. Using internal sensor technology and auto-stop features, the IntelliSense Drill monitors drill bit tip location and depth to signal to the surgeon when they have passed through a bony cortex, and recommends the optimal screw length. This means less surgical time and therefore a lower per-patient cost. As a result, the IntelliSense Drill is transforming the surgeon and patient experience by providing a seamless, accurate, and cost reducing solution making great strides in the world of orthopedics.