CHALLENGES FOR MEDICAL ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING
The demand for medical equipment and devices continues to grow worldwide, and electronic technologies are increasingly important components of these products. The medical electronics sector is not only a high-growth market, but one in which both the business and technology landscapes are rapidly changing.
From a business perspective, this sector is becoming more global, and the increasing importance of Asia as a hub for development and manufacturing of medical devices/electronics, as well as a consumer of these products, cannot be understated. Greater globalization also means greater challenges with regards to component traceability and reliability. There are also concerns about the impact of RoHS on Class III supply chains and resulting mixed assembly challenges to be considered.
From a technology perspective, rapid changes and advances affect everything from materials to information management. iNEMI has identified several challenges and research needs facing the medical electronics sector, a few of which are discussed here.
New materials such as stretchable electronic substrates, and the use of nano-materials will bring significant paradigm shifts. There are two important areas in materials research for medical applications. The first is materials for electrodes used in neurostimulation devices, with demonstrations of electrode arrays on flexible/expandable substrates as well as high I/O count arrays made using silicon process technology. The large number of potential neuro-stimulation therapy targets in the human body suggests that different materials combinations may be needed to achieve optimal therapy.
The second key focus for research efforts is nanomaterials or systems that can be configured for diagnostic or therapy purposes. These materials are expected to potentially be game-changing. Development of nanomaterials with programming and read-out electronics needs to be researched (an example is Google's Nanobots for cancer treatment).
Medical electronics are becoming smaller, smarter and connected. With the deployment of fully connected IoT medical devices comes the need to properly analyze, manage and secure health data coming to/from patient devices, transmission devices and the cloud. The implication of the required security on the technical aspects of the devices (e.g., required power resources for encryption of the data in implantables) needs to be fully understood and best practices established.
In both the implantable and portable space, finding ways to increase power density to simultaneously increase device longevity and decrease device size remains a challenge. For newer types of implantables, such as ~1 cc leadless pacemakers, the battery can occupy up to ¾ of the device volume, limiting the electronics (and, thereby, functionality) that can be deployed. Use of energy scavenging and recharging (mechanical, thermal, or electrical) are research areas of interest.
Medical Electronics Symposium
This rapidly changing environment makes it hard to keep pace with the latest technologies and best practices. The iNEMI/MEPTEC/SMTA Medical Electronics Symposium (September 14 & 15, Marylhurst University, Portland, Oregon USA) will focus on advances in electronic technologies and advanced manufacturing, specifically targeting medical and bioscience applications. It gives technologists, entrepreneurs and service providers the opportunity to learn about the latest technologies and processes, and share best practices.
The technical agenda will be divided into two tracks:
- Track 1: Designs, Components and Assembly for High-Density Medical Electronics Solutions
- Track 2: Next Generation Microelectronics for Changing Healthcare Markets
The deadline for early bird registration is September 2. Members of iNEMI, MEPTEC, Oregon Bioscience Association, and SMTA are all eligible for member pricing.
For more additional details.