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QSpine : Single Use Retractor

Project completed by Ken McCorkindale as co-owner/director of Cramasie.

Existing surgical retractors are usually made of stainless steel, these show up as black shadows in X-Rays and this often means that the retractor has to be removed before X-Ray or that more X-rays are required, causing inconvenience and prolonging surgery time. Metal retractors also need to be sent to external suppliers for sterilisation, which is expensive. QSpine wanted to tackle these issues by creating a single use radiolucent retractor.


We studied user requirements through discussions with surgeons and observation of spinal operations and we investigated possible mechanical designs for a device made in plastic. A high performance radiolucent engineering polymer was identified which allowed us to develop concepts for a very strong lightweight mechanism that is easy to use and low cost. Through CAD simulation, physical prototyping and testing iterations, we designed all parts for manufacture and worked closely with tool makers, materials specialists and moulders to optimise production of the product. We conducted testing in-house to demonstrate that the device would match the strength of competitor metal products and to verify usability with surgeons.

The production device has a comparable strength to steel retractors. We achieved this through careful mechanical engineering design, using finite element analysis to simulate a variety of load conditions and materials, followed by physical prototyping and detailed part refinement.

Launched 2018.

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