Compiled ByDoug Bartholomew In a real-life example of software to the rescue, Cardianove Inc. has designed the world's smallest life-saving heart pump with software from Catia Solutions, a unit of IBM and Dassault Systemes of Paris. By shaving two years off the normal design time for such a cardiac device, Montreal-based Cardianove believes lives will be saved as a result. An estimated 8,500 people have died waiting for heart transplants in the U.S. since 1988, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Catia's CAD program was used to run complex 3-D simulations to help ensure that the miniature device will meet requirements when its testing begins early in 2002. If the tests are successful, cardiac surgeons throughout the world will be able to place the fingertip-sized pump (22mm in diameter) inside human hearts to provide breathing relief and extend the life of patients waiting for heart transplants. Cardianove expects to have the pump ready and approved for human application within four years. The CAD software's precision and virtual simulation capabilities gave the team of Cardianove engineers and surgeons who developed the pump the confidence that it will not only function properly, but that it can be manufactured to necessary tolerances. The device will be machined out of titanium with blades that are only 100 microns thick (about twice the width of a human hair) and that turn at 10,000 to 12,000 rpm. Power for the device comes from a small external battery that sends a tiny electrical current directly through the skin without requiring wires. "After we completed the computer model, we used Catia's numerical control functions to quickly create a prototype, and used CFX fluid dynamic software to determine if we could cut the parts to spec and predict how they would behave in actual operation in the human body," says Andre Garon, cofounder of Cardianove and professor of general mechanics at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. "Catia allowed us to use the latest in 3-D modeling to explore over 100 virtual prototypes, and to machine the top three candidates."