The role of temperature sensors in medical devices
Herbert E. Dwyer, COO/GM at Nanmac Corporation, gave a presentation titled “Tackling the Need for Better Temperature Sensors in Medical Devices” at the 2017 Sensors Expo and Conference.
Sensors are becoming increasingly common in healthcare. Fueled by aging baby boomers, spikes in chronic diseases and technological novelties, the medical device market is projected to reach an estimated $398 billion in 2017, according to a report by Visiongain.
The American Heart Association reports cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart disease kills approximately 17.3 million people annually, which is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030. Innovative temperature sensors can mitigate heart-related mortality rates.
By accessing user medical data stored on consumer devices like Fitbit, doctors and physicians can spend more time treating patients, and less time conducting gratuitous tests and asking repetitive questions. IoT projects around the world are trying to use temperature sensors for more efficient data collecting and processing, and to provide better care for patients.
These medical gadgets are becoming more and more complex. The push for cheaper and less invasive devices that need to be sterilized in steam or chemicals is making it difficult to use plastics, electronics and the devices themselves, Dwyer noted. Packaging three thermocouples into a 0.040 inch needle of 10 inches in length was recently shown to be neither sufficient nor safe for use in an operating room or outpatient setting.
Dwyer discussed the problems and results of these medical devices as they move toward clinical trials, including design methodology, packaging hurdles, collecting the correct materials and lowering costs. Moreover, he highlighted some of the key challenges developing this technology. The devices must be capable of being distributed to large numbers of people at a low cost.
Among the challenges Dwyer and his colleagues were able to overcome in manufacturing these products included: achieving sufficient wire size to produce a good signal; assembling the connections to a very small wire; providing a good punch area on the needle for the surgeon; making the assembly electrically safe yet functional; moving from manual to semi automated assembly; and making all surface areas very smooth.
Dwyer said the project came in twice the original estimate due to material that caused an adverse assembly process. Needles can also drive prices. More work is needed to lower costs.