Media Relations for a Connected World
Sensor Technologies That Solve Challenges for Medical Device Makers
Medical device makers need to consider three key issues as they face unprecedented opportunities and challenges created by a rapidly-evolving market: miniaturization, liquid compatibility and materials compliance.
Challenge 1: Smaller and Portable
There is a growing need for smaller, lighter, and more portable equipment to help improve quality and cost-effectiveness in nearly every area of modern medical care. In patient transport, intake, and ambulatory care environments, where the more compact the patient monitoring and support equipment is, the more conveniently it can reach the patient. Medical teams working in local clinics, field care units, and even the tight confines of medevac aircraft can now make the most of every minute, using advanced diagnostic and treatment capabilities formerly reserved for operating rooms and ICUs.
Likewise, smaller respirators, infusion pumps, and vital-sign monitors help hospitals improve the quality of in-room and ICU care. Compact monitors, pumps, and suction equipment give an operating room’s scrub team easier access to their patients and the monitors, life-support, and treatment equipment they depend on.
Tighter Space Needs Versatile Components
Creating space-saving equipment requires medical-device design engineers to innovate with compact multi-layer circuit boards, packaging and interconnect solutions, and components with higher levels of integration. One example of how component manufacturers are helping medical device designers achieve these space savings is the new generation of versatile, platform-oriented sensors that have recently hit the market. Each series of sensors is built around a sensor element that can be produced with a wide range of options for mechanical interfaces, mounting styles, packaging styles, and I/O configurations. This allows medical-device design engineers to select the right interface to help them reduce space, eliminate the need for additional components, and thereby reduce costs
Pressure sensors, for example, provide several options for mating connections (port styles), packaging (DIP, SIP, surface mount), and outputs (analog or digital) that can be used to satisfy their applications’ demanding functional, cost, and board space requirements.
The multiple benefits offered by sensors with board-mountable packages have made them one of the most popular space-saving components for medical and industrial designs. In the case of sensors that measure fluid pressure or flow, board-mount packaging enables the sensing element to be firmly attached to the device’s printed circuit board (PCB) as close as possible to the patient and/or the liquid media (e.g., blood, chemicals, or water) it’s sensing.
Packaging options that combine the sensor port and a pre-integrated manifold can provide additional space savings for some applications. Eliminating the tubing and related connections between the sensor/port assembly and its target medium results in a simpler, more compact design.
Many medical electronic designs can also benefit from integrated sensor solutions that combine multiple functions, such as temperature and humidity, or temperature and pressure. Multisensor solutions can be implemented by either co-packaging two or more sensor elements or integrating separately packaged sensors within a compact higher-level assembly.
Challenge 2: Liquid Compatibility
Liquid-compatible sensors are particularly important for devices that come in contact with humid air or fluid pathways. For example CPAP machines and respirators require the measurement of pressure or airflow of nearly 100% humidity breath. And diagnostic equipment, such as chemistry analyzers, must accurately measure fluid pressure. Fortunately, advances in packaging and materials technology have enabled development of compact sensors capable of operating in these challenging conditions. Sensor manufacturers now offer pressure, humidity, and temperature sensors, featuring special packaging and design that protect both patient and electronics while minimizing impact on a medical device’s form factor.
In applications such as dialysis machines, the sensor’s ability to tolerate direct contact with the dialysate solution enables it to deliver prompt pressure feedback to the pump controller as it is being filtered for the patient. The sensor platform is available in several application-specific
configurations that integrate port options and package designs created for dialysis machine manufacturers. If medical devices use sensors that aren't compatible with liquid media in moist or wet environments, they will require additional components to protect the sensor, which can add bulk, expense, and complexity to the device’s design. But, with liquid-compatible sensors, design engineers can create compact, high-performance medical equipment while reducing design risks and streamlining development efforts.
Challenge 3: Materials Compliance
Since medical equipment is often marketed globally, device manufacturers must also consider the materials and manufacturing processes that go into their products to ensure that they adhere to various regional and global material compatibility regulations. One of the most important of these are the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95/EC
(RoHS) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) standards. Originally created by the European Union (EU) to control the levels of toxic materials in the e-waste stream, RoHS strictly restricts the use of lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and brominated fire retardants in electronic equipment and is rapidly becoming a globally recognized standard. REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances and their potential impact on both human health and the environment. This wide-reaching standard currently governs the use of over 150,000 substances within the EU and is being adopted or used as the basis for similar legislation in a number of other countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Korea.
In order to obtain certification for RoHS and REACH, manufacturers are required to document compliance throughout their products, supply chains, and manufacturing processes. Having a single sensor vendor, such as Honeywell, whose products are already certified and documented as globally compliant with key environmental regulations, can dramatically reduce the time and effort a manufacturer must invest to achieve certification for its products. Additional time and money can be saved during product upgrades by using a customized version of a previously approved sensor design.
Sensors are playing a critical role in the trend toward smaller, more portable medical equipment that helps to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of medical care. As medical equipment size continues to shrink, design engineers are relying on a new generation of sensing elements with compact form factors and versatile packaging options well-suited for the tight confines of today’s new products. Platform-oriented architectures and advanced packaging technologies allow these sensors to be manufactured in a wide range of styles, which can also help design engineers address materials compliance and liquid compatibility challenges simply and cost-effectively.
Rob Kim (email@example.com; ph: +1 763-954-5342) is strategic marketing director at Honeywell Sensing and Control. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://sensing.honeywell.com.
For more information about medical sensors from Honeywell Sensing and Control please visit http://sensing.honeywell.com/industries/medical