Brain implant restores visual perception; MFG DAY 2019
Jason Esterhuizen walks near his Los Angeles home with his wife, Sumarie. Although he is blind, he is now able to follow the sidewalk, thanks to an experimental brain implant that enables him to distinguish light areas from dark.
Courtesy: UCLA Health

Brain implant restores visual perception; MFG DAY 2019

Conformis, Stryker enter definitive agreement; Solar Atmospheres adds plant metallurgist; PDS announces new Southeast regional sales manager.


Yesterday was Manufacturing Day 2019 (MFG DAY) and all month is a time to celebrate manufacturing and get the next generation interested in a career in the field. We’d love to see your photos and hear what you and/or your company for students. Share them with us via email.

Haven’t held a student open house yet, there’s still time as events promoting manufacturing can take place anytime throughout the month.

In addition to celebrating manufacturing, there’s news on how researchers have developed advanced technology, helping the blind see motion, light, and dark. There are also some new appointments within the manufacturing industry – plant managers and regional sales managers, and then there’s the news of Conformis and Stryker working together on customized knee implants and tooling.


SAWPA appoints Gregory Scheuring plant metallurgist

Gregory Scheuring has joined Solar Atmospheres of Western PA (SAWPA) as plant metallurgist. Scheuring is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor and a master degree in Materials Science and Engineering. Having extensive metallurgical experience from his time with A&T Stainless, AK Steel, and the Ellwood Group, Scheuring brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his new with Solar Atmospheres. Scheuring applied to Solar after developing a keen interest in vacuum thermal processing and wanted to gain real world experience with the advantages of vacuum heat treating.

Bob Hill, president of SAWPA, says, “We are excited to gain Greg’s knowledge base of many materials. Along with assisting with daily metallurgical questions, Greg will be instrumental in expanding our materials testing laboratory.” 


PDS announces new Southeast regional sales manager

Precision Drive Systems (PDS) has appointed Gene Thompson as its new southeast regional sales manager.

“PDS is proud to welcome Gene Thompson back to the company as our new southeast regional sales manager,” explains Allen Turk, chairman and CEO of Precision Drive Systems. “Gene’s previous experience with PDS and his deep industry expertise in both operations and sales management will be a great advantage in helping us continue to establish responsive, ongoing relationships with our clients to improve their productivity and keep their production lines up and running profitably.”

Originally from Goshen, Indiana, Thompson has 34 years of industry expertise and previously worked with PDS as a sales manager from 2011 to 2013.


Conformis, Stryker execute development, license, distribution agreements

Conformis Inc. has entered into definitive agreements to sell and license to Stryker Corp., certain assets relating to Conformis’ patient-specific instrumentation (PSI) technology, and to develop, manufacture, and supply PSI for use in connection with Stryker’s knee implant offerings.

Under the terms of the agreements, Conformis will receive $14 million up-front and up to an additional $16 million in milestone payments for selling, licensing, and developing part of its intellectual property (IP) portfolio to Stryker in order to design, manufacture, and commercialize PSI for use in Stryker’s knee implant offerings, including the Triathlon Total Knee System. Conformis has also entered into a long-term distribution agreement with Stryker, under which Conformis will supply PSI to Stryker.


Patients gain motion detection, distinguish between light & dark

Of the nearly 39 million people worldwide who are legally blind, many were born sighted and lost their vision as adults, drastically altering their lives. Now researchers at UCLA Health have surgically implanted four blind patients with an brain device that boosts users’ ability to navigate the world by restoring their ability to perceive objects and movement.

Geared toward formerly sighted people who now live in complete blackness, the wireless device helps patients distinguish light from dark, enabling them to regain a measure of independence and complete daily tasks like sorting laundry or quickly finding and picking up items from a table.

“This is the first time that we’ve had a completely implantable device that people can go home with and use in their own living conditions without having to be plugged into an external device,” says Dr. Nader Pouratian, a neurosurgeon at UCLA Health and principal investigator of the study. “It helps them recognize, for example, where a doorway is, where the sidewalk begins or ends or where the crosswalk is. These are all extremely meaningful events that can help improve their quality of life.”

Manufactured by Second Sight, the Orion device converts images captured by a tiny video camera mounted on sunglasses into a series of electrical pulses. The pulses stimulate a set of electrodes implanted on top of the brain’s visual cortex, which perceives patterns of light as visual cues.



“There are little white dots on a black background, like looking up at the stars at night,” says Jason Esterhuizen, the second person in the world to receive the device. “I might see three little dots as a person is walking toward me. As they get closer to me, more and more dots light up.”

The more Jason uses the device, the more he’s able to understand what each flicker of light represents. His descriptions also are helping UCLA researchers improve the technology. Pouratian hopes to expand the device’s capabilities and make adjustments that will allow more people to benefit from it, including those who were born blind or with low vision.