abbvie humira® auto-injector pen

When Abbott set out to design a new HUMIRA® auto-injector pen (prior to AbbVie spinning off from Abbott), Design Integrity was retained to lead the industrial design and preliminary mechanical engineering effort. Throughout the project, our team developed innovative design solutions for various aspects of the device, including the form language, user interface, and overall construction. The new device was launched internationally by AbbVie, and it has been lauded for its ease-of-use.


Abbott’s existing HUMIRA® delivery device was well received in the marketplace, but it was not unique to the Abbott product line. When planning for the next gen auto-injector, Abbott strove to improve the aesthetic design as well as the usability for both women and men with a wide range of hand sizes, including a subset of the population with compromised physical dexterity. To reduce the time to market, an existing internal mechanism was utilized but the new outer housing subassembly had to be developed from the ground up.

Initial Conceptual Design

The industrial design team at Design Integrity began with a thorough assessment of market and user research data previously compiled by the team at Abbott, followed by a detailed design assessment of the existing HUMIRA® pen. As the project goals included improved ergonomics and ease of use for a wide variety of users, anthropometric data for human hand sizes was studied in detail. Next, a broad range of preliminary design concepts were developed, focused primarily on ergonomic hand grip forms and interface aesthetics.

Foam Study Models

After a review of the initial design concepts with the team at Abbott, several leading directions were selected for further development. Next, a series of scaled study models were hand carved from foam for in-hand evaluation by male and female team members at Abbott and DI.

After the initial reviews of the foam study models, each model was refined with improvements to the aesthetic form and grip areas (to improve comfort and usability). The team reviewed the refined foam models along with the concept sketches and renderings, and an intended design direction was selected.

Design Refinement

The chosen design direction was refined extensively, including an extensive exploration of grip locations and forms. In parallel, a color study was conducted to evaluate potential colorways for the plastic housing components, activation button, and over-molded grips. Once the preferred grip and button design layout was approved, the project plan was solidified for the preliminary mechanical design effort.


A preliminary 3D CAD layout of the new auto-injector housing was developed with SolidWorks 3D CAD software. The outer geometry was developed first, using the final foam study model as the reference to ensure that critical sizes and design features were accurately incorporated in the CAD model.

Once the outer form was completed, the housing components were “shelled” by offsetting the outer surfaces by the intended wall thickness of the housings. Preliminary mounting features were added to the inside surfaces to position and securely retain the existing internal mechanism.

The grip features were then added to the CAD model, and the walls of the housings were adjusted below the grip areas to ensure a consistent nominal wall thickness across the main surfaces of the plastic components. From the onset, the 3D CAD design was developed with production intent.


Prototype Development

After the initial 3D CAD layout was completed, a weighted prototype was fabricated for evaluation. The plastic housings were CNC machined from ABS plastic blocks, and the grip areas were cast onto the plastic housings at a local shop. The plastic housings were painted a neutral, light gray color. The goal for the prototype was to allow for the evaluation of the overall form, aesthetics, and ergonomics (grip form/comfort and button location).


Following the evaluation of the scale prototype, the DI team refined the design of the auto-injector handle in 3D CAD with a high level of production intent. The design files were then handed off to the Abbott team for further prototyping, usability testing, engineering testing, final design refinements, and production implementation.


The new HUMIRA® Auto-Injector pen was launched internationally by AbbVie in 2018, and the design was well received in the marketplace. According to AbbVie team members, the handle design performed better during user studies than all prior injection devices.



The new HUMIRA® auto-injector pen was developed to be easy to use and to reduce the burden on patients when performing self-injection. The body of the injector pen fits in the hands of a wide variety of patients, including individuals with a weak grip and/or reduced physical dexterity.

The auto-injection delivery system allows users to complete a full injection in about 10 seconds. In addition, the housing form conceals the needle tip when injected. Overall, the project was a big success, and the device was launched across several international markets.


M. Kowal

Former Director of Global Intelligence, AbbVie

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