What happens when ophthalmic surgeons, design engineers, and master instrument makers come together to find a solution? At Storz Ophthalmic Instruments—a division of Bausch & Lomb, the result is customized surgical instruments that can only be described as pure artistry.
Achieving the level of quality and precision Vaught and his fellow instrument makers have consistently delivered for decades doesn’t happen through mass manufacturing. It requires a delicate and experienced human touch. This is why Storz surgical instruments are almost completely handmade.
“We have modern machines and robotics that can create some basic component parts of the instruments,” explained Vaught. “But, it still takes an experienced craftsperson to fit and finish that instrument precisely. The tolerances and dimensions that we are achieving are sometimes down to a thousandth of an inch. This requires hours of handwork under magnification and, at times, we’re out there with files and polishing wheels like the craftspeople in Germany were using 200 years ago.”
“When we design and create any instrument, our goal is to make it feel like an extension of the doctor’s hand. Doctors depend on a certain fit, feel, and function of the instrument—and they also have an expectation of quality every time they use it. So, that’s what we bring them.”
“When we design and create any instrument, our goal is to make it feel like an extension of the doctor’s hand. Doctors depend on a certain fit, feel, and function of the instrument—and they also have an expectation of quality every time they use it. So, that’s what we bring them.”- Adam Vaught
Putting the 10,000-Hour Rule into Practice
At Storz, every craftsperson must successfully complete a five-year, 10,000-hour apprenticeship before they begin to work independently. Apprentices work side-by-side with highly skilled instrument makers, many of whom have been there for decades.
“It takes a lot of skill and a lot of confidence to do this type of work,” said Vaught. “The instruments we’re producing are hard to make and take a lot of time. We spend hours working through a microscope with such delicate work and we’re always striving to make every instrument perfect.”
Identifying Challenges. Creating Customized Solutions.
The sources of many of the products included in the exceptionally broad Storz portfolio are the surgeons themselves.
“Many times, a surgeon has an idea in the OR,” said Vaught. “They bring that challenge to us at Storz and we help create a solution.”
In cases where a surgeon brings a specific idea to Storz, a customized version of the new tool is developed based on the required specifications. Often these new tools become a product that other surgeons can purchase for their own practices. The Devgan Micro Capsulorhexis Forceps is one such tool.
“Dr. Uday Devgan came to us with a challenge and design ideas,” said Vaught, “and the answer ended up being what’s now called the Devgan Micro Capsulorhexis Forceps. It’s a very intricate and delicate instrument that takes about three hours to make. Once it’s done, it’s truly a work of art.”
No Corners Cut in Making Cutting Edge Instruments
Whether working in a mission field hospital or in a state-of-the-art operating room, surgeons depend on the tools crafted by Storz instrument makers.
“It’s rewarding to know that surgeons trust the artistry and craft of our instruments,” said Vaught. “That’s why we always want to be the best. We don’t cut any corners when it comes to quality, including the raw materials we work with.”
Storz surgical instruments are made using certified, high-grade US or German surgical stainless steel alloys or titanium. For those made with surgical stainless steel, an oven-hardening process is required. “We harden the entire instrument,” said Vaught. “We don’t stop with just the tip or spring or blade. We want to ensure that our instruments retain their shape and resist corrosion—particularly since they’re constantly exposed to the caustic properties of bodily fluids and cleaning solutions.”
Bringing New Ideas to Life
For David Myers, senior product manager at Storz Ophthalmic Instruments, seeing what the company’s team of engineers and instrument makers are capable of never gets old.
“Through the experience of our tenured craftspeople, there isn’t much that a doctor can come to us with that we can’t produce,” he said. “It’s a true collaborative effort in that the surgeon comes to us with an idea, our engineers work with the doctor to determine what the physical form and function of that idea should be, and our craftspeople bring it to life.”
If you’d like to explore the Storz product catalog, visit www.storzeye.com. If you have a specific question or challenge regarding a surgical instrument needed by your practice, please contact email@example.com.
Adam Vaught is the Team Lead and Journeyman Instrument Maker in the forceps department at Storz Ophthalmic Instruments.