Connecting Miniaturized Devices
Miniaturization is one of the biggest trends in medical device development today. Ensuring that these devices, as they get smaller, are still able to be connected reliably and securely is no simple task. This presentation discusses the miniaturization trend in the medical device manufacturing industry and briefly highlights the nano and micro connectors used in them.
Medical technologies are rapidly miniaturizing as a result of three supporting events. First, the development of the new, high density “digital chip” allows the combining of multiple functions into one, small electronic module. Secondly, the expansion of medical research and diagnosis of symptoms that is available to the doctor. Third, the economic focus that is on cost containment in the medical services provider. As a result, medical electronics systems are changing and are being miniaturized to offer more control, and information during a single use of the equipment.
Miniaturized devices also expand medical service beyond the hospital environment. Large machines have been reduced in size and provide a number of advantages and new applications. As more devices are used, countertop space, wall mounts, and electrical service to instruments are being replaced with hand-held systems and wireless controls in smaller offices. Also, with device capability expanding, the early, low-cost disposable tools are being replaced with smart devices that do more for the physician and are reusable. Higher-end medical devices are expanding the services available in the doctor’s office and reducing time to diagnosis. Emergency and portable medical equipment are being utilized in areas from airports and ambulances to group medical stations for sporting events.
Early technology examples of the new medical era include dental x-ray chips that eliminate the use of film, digital stethoscopes, esophageal scopes, and arthroscopic surgery tools. A number of catheter systems now include electronic chips placed temporarily below the epidermis or touching brain tissue to monitor symptoms, such as seizures. Bone conduction and subcutaneous electronics are routinely applied to children with extreme hearing loss.
To operate and use these electronic systems, nano and miniature connectors are fit into the designs, enabling increased portability, lower weight, and product sterilization (when necessary). Systems using nano connectors have pioneered the research of brain mapping, and fit into most cochlear implant hearing technologies. Probe tips, motor drives, and transesophageal probes all require the use of micro and nano connectors to support miniaturization or reuse of the instrument where applicable. Often times, micro and nano connectors are molded into the medical device, module, or probe tip and become part of the whole instrument. Micro and nano connector reliability becomes key to the application as this industry grows and expands. To this end, the focus on high-reliability and long range performance are critical in the design of interconnects into the new era of “medical quality” micro and nano systems.