VisSim helps Bayer deliver a Better Life

Bayer's slogan is “Science for a Better Life.” Glen Williams, an engineer for the medical corporation, has been using VisSim for over a decade to fulfill that vision. While working on equipment that directly interacts with the human body in critical situations, Williams needs a precise tool to help him develop and test complex systems.

Take for example Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI. “It’s an electronically noisy environment. The scanner itself generates signals that are 200 times stronger than the signal created by the human body,” says Williams. “The other problem is, the scanner noise is not predictable. It’s not just one kind of noise.”

Imagine trying to pick out one specific person’s whisper from across the room in a nightclub, and you begin to understand the challenge.

“There are a lot of cases where you’re getting an MRI because you’ve got some kind of heart problem,” says Williams. “It used to be that they would just have to take the leads off you, put you in the scanner, and sometimes the scans last for fifteen or twenty minutes.” Not long ago, the best option for monitoring a patient’s condition during an MRI was to take a continuous pulse – not an ideal solution when working with high-risk patients.

“Using VisSim, I was able to devise algorithms that let us pick out this heart signal from this incredibly noisy environment and display a reasonable looking wave form to a doctor so you could monitor a patient while they’re getting an MRI signal,” says Williams. “I did a lot of that with data analysis that I did with VisSim, looking at these physiologic signals. And we were able to produce far superior outputs from the stuff that had been done previously.”

Although he focuses on data analysis, Williams says he also uses VisSim for its primary purpose: modeling. “Most of what we make is injectors to inject fluids into people while they’re having scans, and a lot of times you have to have agents put

into your blood to help get better images,” he explains. “They have to inject it in very precise quantities with very precise timing at very precise rates.”

To explain the process of modeling in VisSim, Williams uses a simplified example of designing a paint stirrer. “You’d have a motor, you’d have a paddle and some type of liquid that’s thick that you need to stir,” he says. “So you could vary the speed, that sort of thing.” Testing in VisSim saves time by predicting how real-world trials will go.

Of course, modeling at Bayer is much more complex than stirring paint, since signals are organic and unpredictable. “They’re from human beings, and that makes them more complicated than your average signal processing problem.”

The math is complex, but Williams says the results are easy to interpret. “This is really the nicest part: the displays that are available in VisSim are nice-colored graphs of the signals. And you can display multiple signals on one of these graphs, and they’re really the heart of, in my case, this data analysis stuff.”

And quality graphics are more than just a nicety. Williams says they help speed the process from algorithm to medical product, like an MRI scanner or fluid injector. “I can use that [graph] ultimately to generate an algorithm that’s going to be executed on a computer. And I translate that into code which I then give to our software engineers and they end up implementing it in actual devices that we build at the company I’m in.”

Williams’ affinity for VisSim has caught on among Bayer’s engineers, especially since he began offering a course in the software. “VisSim, I found, is much easier to teach people. It was designed from the ground up as a visual simulation language, and you can much more easily get people up to speed on using it,” he says. “It finally got to the point where I convinced people to start using VisSim. And that meant they needed training. And I’m also using it in a class I’m teaching for controls theory.”

Williams says he will continue to use VisSim while he pursues “Science for a Better Life” at Bayer. “I think this is an excellent tool,” he says.