Thursday 9 November, 2017
Low cost, handheld device to diagnose melanoma wins international James Dyson Award
The sKan uses heat detection to help physicians quickly identify skin cancer
With 13 people diagnosed with melanoma every day New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. When
diagnosed and treated early, melanoma is usually curable, but the disease still claims tens of thousands of lives every
year. In New Zealand alone, over 300 lives are lost to melanoma, annually.
Early diagnostic methods rely heavily on visual inspections, which are inaccurate. More advanced methods are time
consuming and expensive, adding avoidable strain to already over-burdened health services. Those who do not go through
biopsy procedures run the risk of missed detection.
Four engineering undergraduates at McMaster University, Canada, set out to tackle the problem of melanoma diagnosis.
Their solution, the Skan, is a cheaper, easy to use diagnostic system that could save lives through early detection,
while also saving health services valuable time and money.
As international winners of the James Dyson Award, the team will be given more than $55,000 to develop their idea.
How the sKan works
Cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal cells. As such, they release more heat. This means that after a
thermal shock is applied (for example, via an ice pack), the cancerous tissue will regain heat more quickly than the
non-concerous tissue, indicating a strong likelihood of melanoma.
The sKan incorporates an array of thermistors – highly accurate and inexpensive temperature sensors. This array is
placed on the region of interest, and tracks its return to ambient termperature after being cooled. The thermistor
readings are digitised, whereupon time synchronous averaging, temperature variation detection and spatial validation are
conducted on the signal. The results are displayed as a heat map and temperature difference time plot, together with a
statement of findings – showing the presence, or lack of presence, of melanoma.
While non-invasive, thermal imaging techniques for melanoma diagnosis exist, these are expensive as they use high
resolution thermal imaging cameras, which cost upwards of $38,000. The anticipated cost of the sKan is approximately
Watch the the video to see how the sKan works.
James Dyson says: “By using widely available and inexpensive components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer
detection to be readily accessible to the many. It’s a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the
world. This is why I have selected it at this years international winner”.
Dr. Raimond Wong, Chairman of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Site Group at the Juravinski Cancer Centre says: “Current
methods of detecting wether a lesion is melanoma or not is through the trained eyes of physicians – resulting in
patients undergoing unnecessary surgery or late detection of melanoma. The sKan has the potential to be a low cost, easy
to use and effective device, that can be afforded and adopted across health services.
The sKan team: “Winning the James Dyson Award means the world to us. The prize money will help us to continue developing
a medical device that can saves people’s lives. We are truly humbled and excited to be given this remarkable
The team have big ambitions for their device who plan to use the prize money to continue reiterating and refining the
product to a level where it will receive FDA approval. From here, they hope to see the device being used across medical
For more information, please get in touch with Olivia.Eaton@Dyson.com or call the Dyson Press Office on 0207 833 8244.
NOTES TO EDITORS
How the technology works:
· The design consists of a transducer, a conditioning circuit, an analog to digital converter and a software
processor.The transducer is an array of thermistors placed on the region of interest as it returns to ambient
temperature after being cooled. As the temperatures of each thermistor varies, the voltage through the circuit changes,
sending a signal through a specific conditioning circuit to filter and amplify the signal before becoming digitized by a
microcontroller. The signal is then sent to a computer through a serial connection to be formatted and fitted to
thermistor parametric curves. The results are displayed through a heat map and a temperature time plot, paired with a
statement of the findings. The analysis reports the location and range of temperature differences on a temporal metric.
Global melanoma statistics:
· 132,000 instances of melanoma cancers occur globally every year.
· 1 in every 3 cancers diagnosed each year is skin cancer.
NZ melanoma statistics:
· In New Zealand, 13 people are diagnosed with melanoma every day.
· In New Zealand alone, over 300 people
's lives are lost to melanoma skin cancer every year.
Atropos, Gabriele Natale, Design & Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Problem: Current high-performance 3D printing tools waste large amounts of material.
Solution: Atropos is a 6-axis robotic arm, able to print 3D objects, by starting from a CAD file. Atropos uses
continuous fiber composites material, to produce high-performance objects. Fibers are saturated, while a
numerically-controlled machine is able to deposit them in a precise and repeatable way.
Twistlight, Tina Zimmer, Product Design, Gestaltung Köln, Germany
Problem: Although vein-puncture is the most common medical procedure in the world, 33% of vein-puncture attempts fail at
the first attempt. The risk of an infection and complication increases with every further attempt. Every abortive
attempt prolongates the therapy and increases the cost, along with the pain and stress levels of both patient and
Solution: Twistlight uses LED lights in a diagnostically relevant way to guide it clearly into the tissue. It makes
veins appear highly contrasted within its surrounding dermal tissue. The device can be used single handed, therefore the
other hand can be used to undo the vein strap, tension the skin and fix the catheter in place when pulling out the steel
stylet. The device incorporates an integrated catheter feed and catheter guidance. The device is battery-powered and
therefore can be used in hospitals, offices and out in the field, with the emergency services.
The James Dyson Award
The James Dyson Award runs in 23 countries. The contest is open to university level students (and recent graduates)
studying product design, industrial design and engineering.
The award encourages ideas that challenge convention, lean engineering – less is more, and design with the environment
in mind. The best inventions are simple and practical yet provide a solution to a real world problem. A national winner
is selected for every country the award runs in, before going through to the final phase where the international winner
is chosen by James Dyson.
The award is run by the James Dyson Foundation, a registered charity set up in 2002 which exists to inspire and support
the next generation of engineers.
What is the prize?
· The international prize is over $55,000 (equiv. £30,000) for the student and over $9000 (equiv. £5,000) for the
student’s university department.
Up to two International Runners-up:
· Over $9000 (Equiv. £5,000 each)
· Over $3500 (Equiv. £2,000) each
What is the competition timeline?
· Opens: 30 March 2017
· Close: 20 July 2017
· National winners and finalists announced: 7 September 2017
· Dyson engineers’ shortlist: 28 September 2017
· International winner and finalists announced: 09 November 2017
Who can enter the James Dyson Award?
Any university level student of product design, industrial design or engineering, or graduate within four years of
graduation, who is studying or studied in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India,
Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland,
Taiwan, the UK and the USA.
For more information and regular updates on the progress of the James Dyson Award, follow the James Dyson Foundation on
Facebook and Twitter. Entries can be made by visiting the James Dyson Award website here.
Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology
· The first cohort of Dyson Undergraduate Engineers will arrive on the Dyson campus in September 2017 to begin four
years of employment and study with the Dyson Institute. This is Dyson’s first step to attaining degree-awarding powers
and university status.
· More than a degree, more than a university: undergraduate engineers will gain hands-on experience from day one as part
of the Global Engineering team and academic rigour through their degree course.
· 33% of the offer holders are female compared to 16% of all UK engineering students and 9% of all UK engineers.
· James Dyson said, “The UK’s skills shortage is holding Dyson back as we look to increase the amount of technology we
develop and export from the UK. We are taking matters into our own hands. The new degree course offers academic theory,
a real-world job and salary, and access to experts in their field.”
 Equivalent of £30,000