In this interview, meet Sara Lucarotti (Head of Design) and Navid Khani (Head of R&D), part of the Design team at BellaSeno GmbH (Leipzig, Germany), winner of the 2018 RegMedNet Award for Cultivating Excellence.
Please introduce yourself
Sara Lucarotti (SL): My name is Sara Lucarotti, I am 26 years old and I am the Head of Design Department of BellaSeno GmbH. I have a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, which I obtained at the University of Pisa (Italy). I completed my Master’s thesis at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT; Australia) under the supervision of Professor Giovanni Vozzi and Professor Dietmar Hutmacher. There I worked with a research group in the regenerative medical field, in particular on cartilage tissue regeneration. It has been a very useful and productive experience, which has completely changed my life.
As an Italian, I have a strong connection with my family and friends, but I also believe that it´s very important for the personal growth to constantly broaden our knowledge and living in other countries is a crucial step of this process. This is why, as soon as my studies allowed me, I decided to stay for 9 months in Australia and, following that, in Germany. It has been also useful because it made me learn how to think differently and this has been very important for my experience in BellaSeno.
As is the case with all engineers, I like challenges. I believe that they are the motor for driving life and it´s up to us how to deal with them. I like representing my approach to problems with a metaphor of two prehistoric people who wanted to facilitate the act of carrying food. The first one would find squared-shape stones and use them as wheels for a container. It was quite uncomfortable and effort consuming, but overall it was working and it was a fast solution. The second one would find the same stones and think about the most efficient way to use them making them round. It was more time consuming but at the end it was worth it. I see myself as the latter one. In my opinion, when facing a problem, analyzing it carefully and thinking out of the box are two fundamental steps for finding a successful solution.
Navid Khani (NK): I am Navid Khani, I am 32 years old and from Tabriz (Iran). During my bachelor’s studies at University of Tabriz (Tabriz, Iran) I had the opportunity to gain fundamental knowledge about engineering principles and production concepts from the point of view of mechanical engineering and I became strongly interested in the field of manufacturing and solid mechanics. Followed by my bachelor’s studies, I joined the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Tehran (UT) and started my master’s by joining Computational Nanomechanics research group.
My master’s thesis subject was analysis of Nanostructures by using computational techniques. My doctoral research studies are in the field of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing technologies under the supervision of Professor Bahattin Koc at Sabanci University and my doctoral dissertation topic is “Modeling and additive manufacturing of heterogeneous multi-material structures”. After graduation and since November 2018 I have been working at BellaSeno GmbH as a head of research and development.
Why did you come to work at BellaSeno GmbH? What excited you by the company?
SL: I remember at the end of my final exam in the high school I was asked: “What would you like to do in the future?” and without hesitation I answered, “I would like to be remembered because I have done something good and useful for people”. I must admit that the crucial decision of my life has been going to Australia for my master thesis. There I learnt about regenerative medicine and I strongly believe in its potential.
Once graduated I had two options: doing a PhD or working for a company. The only thing I knew was that I really wanted to do something in that field. Surely a PhD could have been a good option but when I found out about BellaSeno everything was clear because I could do what I was really aiming to and in the short term. I believe that BellaSeno could offer a better and safer solution to such a physically and psychologically painful issue affecting lot of women every day. Moreover, as a woman I am very sensitive to the topic of breast cancer and the idea of giving a contribution in this field makes me very proud and motivated.
NK: My main theme of research for my doctoral studies was on modeling, analysis and AM of multi-material structures. The current status of research in the field of AM demands exploration of new ideas by considering the inherent potential and application of AM technologies in fabrication of unique freeform structures.
My doctoral studies were dedicated to research in different domains of AM focusing more on development and establishment of robust and reliable methods and platforms for AM of bioconstructs, including numerical analysis of 3D printed structures, design and fabrication of robotic systems capable of multi-material deposition of polymers and soft matters, and process planning (including algorithms for tool-path generation) for heterogeneous AM.
I found that BellaSeno is a right place for my career, based on my background in AM. BellaSeno is such an international and dynamic environment for those who want to deal with challenges and variety of new things in the field of AM. Being in BellaSeno gives me a chance to involve in not only the research side but also in fabrication.
What part do you play in the team?
SL: Our job as Design Engineers in BellaSeno consists of optimizing the design of our product, Senella®. The aim is to find a perfect compromise between aesthetic beauty and functionality, considering the needs of the patients and the feedback of the surgeons. For us, it´s not only important to guarantee the safety and stability of Senella but also to make it the best solution for women.
This means that first part of my job consists in collecting opinions from as many women and surgeons as possible. To do this, I often travel to meet many qualified plastic surgeons, which provide me with the answers that I need. The second part consists in translating those needs into features for Senella. In particular, since our product is a 3D printed structure, I come up with ideas that my colleague, Navid, makes then possible thanks to his impressive skills in preparing custom-made G-code, which represent the instructions needed by the 3D printer.
The third part is guaranteeing that Senella is safe and stable from a mechanical point of view, working together with the regulatory bodies to make sure that all the possible risks of complications are addressed and minimized. Last part of my job will be following the patients before, during and after they will undergo surgery, collecting feedback and always try to improve our product.
NK: As a part of design team at BellaSeno, we have several constrains for manufacturing of Senella. In general terms, Senella should mimic the natural behavior of the breast. In order to achieve this goal, Sara (our Head of Design) categorizes the scaffold requirements in terms of mechanics, durability, porosity, usability (for the surgeon) etc and distils this information into a list of formal design specifications and conveys this information to my team.
Along with my team, I then develop a customized 3D printing process planning and workflow for the fabrication of a design that meets the specifications — all the while keeping in mind the limitations and constraints of. Furthermore, I am responsible for keeping in touch with universities and professors to bring novel ideas in order to improve the current techniques used in AM.
What are the challenges you face?
SL: The challenges I face are usually related to the fact that our product is new and no guidance or internationally accepted standard is available. Nevertheless, this is also something very interesting and stimulating because I had the opportunity to really know and understand all aspects of Senella, from the design to manufacturing to safety aspects, which I found very helpful when designing a new feature or when addressing a new problem that a surgeon brings out.
NK: BellaSeno is a unique startup and, as such, is a challenging place to work. All employees need to keep up with the latest developments in the field of scaffold design and AM, and consider how they can improve the quality and performance of our production. We therefore constantly study scientific publications from a variety of different fields and amalgamate all such novel ideas in order to make truly challenging things possible.
Can you tell us about something you’ve been proud of?
SL: Something that really makes me proud is the very positive feedback of the surgeons every time we show them Senella. Especially surgeons, who have seen how the design was before I joined the company, appreciate how we have addressed all the challenges. In my opinion, this pays all the effort during the process of finding the best solution and gives me the motivation to always keep on looking for something new and better.
NK: For me seeing the validation of our efforts when speaking with world-renowned plastic surgeons on one side and witnessing the immense technological improvements in our laboratory on the other side in a very limited timeframe is promising and makes me proud of the good team work at BellaSeno.