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The role of PCB assembly in the medical industry

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are crucial in healthcare and medicine. As the industry continues to innovate to provide patients and their caregivers with the best technology, more and more research, treatment, and diagnostic strategies have moved towards automation. As such, more work will need to be performed involving PCB assembly in order to improve medical equipment and devices in the industry.

The importance of PCB assembly in the medical industry will only continue to grow, as the population continues to age. Today, PCBs play crucial roles in medical imaging units, such as MRIs, as well as heart-monitoring devices, such as pacemakers. Even body temperature monitoring gadgets and responsive neurostimulators implement state of the art PCB technology and components. Here, we will discuss the role that PCB assembly plays in the medical industry.

Electronic Health Records

In the past, electronic health records were poorly integrated and many lacked any form of connection. Instead, each was a separate system that handled orders, documentation, and other tasks in an isolated manner. With time the systems have become integrated to form a more holistic picture, which allowed the medical industry to accelerate patient care while also boosting efficiency dramatically.

There have been great strides regarding the consolidation of the information of patients. However, the potential for further advances is nearly endless, as the future will usher in a new data-driven medical age. That is, electronic health records will be used as a modern tool that will allow the medical industry to collect pertinent data about the population; allowing it to ameliorate both the success rates and results of medical treatments on a perpetual basis.

Mobile Health

Thanks to advances in PCB assembly traditional wires and cords have quickly become a thing of the past. While plugging and unplugging wires and cords from conventional electrical outlets was the norm in the past, modern medical innovations have allowed doctors to take care of their patients on the go, from almost anywhere on the globe.

In fact, the mobile healthcare market is estimated to be valued at over 20 billion dollars this year alone, and smartphones, iPads and other such devices allow healthcare providers to easily receive and transmit vital healthcare information as needed. Documentation, ordering equipment and medication, and researching certain symptoms or conditions in order to better help patients can all be performed with a few simple clicks thanks to advances in mobile healthcare.

Medical Devices that Can be Worn

The market for medical devices that can be worn by patients has grown at a rate of over 16% a year. Moreover, the medical devices are getting smaller, lighter, and easier to wear, while not compromising accuracy or durability. Many such devices use top of the line motion sensors in order to compile pertinent data that is then relayed to the appropriate medical health care professionals.

For instance, some medical devices will immediately notify the proper authorities if a patient has fallen and injured themselves, and two-way voice communication is also possible so that the patient can respond if they are still conscious. Some of the medical devices on the market are so sophisticated that they can even detect when a patient’s wound has become infected.

With the population rapidly increasing and growing older, mobility and access to the proper healthcare facilities and personnel will become a more pressing issue; so mobile healthcare must continue to evolve in order to accommodate the needs of the sick and elderly.

Medical Devices that Can be Implanted

The usage of PCB assembly becomes more complicated when implantable medical devices are involved, as there is no uniform standard to which all PCB components adhere to. That is, different implants will accomplish different goals for different medical conditions, and the precarious nature of the implant will also impact the design and manufacturing of the PCB. In any event, when PCBs are meticulously designed they can allow the deaf to hear via cochlear implants; some for the first time in their lives.

What’s more, those who suffer from advanced cardiovascular disease can benefit from implanted defibrillators, as they may be more susceptible to sudden and unexpected cardiac arrest that can happen anywhere, or be triggered by trauma.

Interestingly, those who suffer from epilepsy can benefit from a device known as a responsive neurostimulator, or RNS. The RNS is directly implanted into the brain of the patient and can help patients who do not respond well to regular seizure reducing medications. The RNS works by releasing an electric shock whenever it picks up on any unusual brain activity and monitors the patient’s brain activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Wireless Communications

Unbeknownst to some, instant messaging apps and walkie-talkies have only been used for a short period of time in many hospitals. In the past, overhead PA systems, beepers, and pagers were considered the norm for inter-office communication. Some experts have blamed the relatively slow adoption of instant messaging apps and walkie-talkies in the medical industry on security questions, as well as HIPAA concerns.

However, medical experts can now use various systems that use clinically-based systems, web apps, and smart devices in order to transmit lab tests, messages, secure alerts, and other information to relevant parties.

To learn more about the growing role of PCBs in medical device manufacturing, call Circuits Central at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.

Need for manufacturing prototypes

Some people may claim that manufacturing prototypes is not an important step, or not necessary at all; however, prototype development is a crucial and necessary step, irrespective of the item being manufactured. Below, are just some of the reasons why manufacturing prototypes is an integral part of the design process of electronic components.

Testing and Evaluation

In reality, a simple drawing of a design, or even having an idea for one, may be quite different from the actual real world where the unit will be utilized. However, by using a prototype, a company can evaluate a real, tangible version of the product they wish to launch and determine which components are worth using and which components should be discarded.

Moreover, prototype development will allow R&D to find issues that they would simply not be able to detect had they not created a prototype. Beyond evaluation comes the benefits of prototype testing. That is, the research and development team will have ample opportunity to perform qualitative testing on the product before they initiate the full production phase. Prototype testing is imperative, as it can save a company thousands, if not millions of dollars, down the line, as well as save time and avoid revisions.

Imagine if a company produced a hundred thousand units of a product, only to find that a crucial component of the device was shoddy or defective in its craftsmanship. This would cause a recall of the product and likely a public apology to customers. Also, while prototype testing is paramount for multinational conglomerates, it is arguably even more important for smaller companies, such as startups, as a single omission or miscalculation can spell disaster and bankrupt a small company with limited resources.

Clarify Production Problems and Expenditures

Prototyping before production commences allows an enterprise to review the production process and determine if any of the steps in the chain need to be revised or amalgamated. The end result is that the production process will be streamlined, while also ensuring that production expenditures will be as low as possible.

In some instances, a company may discover certain manufacturing processes that may cause issues for the finalized product in the future or may notice certain difficulties arise during the production phase. In either scenario, the company will be able to notice the issue sooner than if they were to detect it during the production of the final product. In sum, prototyping allows R&D to find the absolute best method or means of production; from optimal silicone moulds and die-casts to superlative stamped metal and injection moulding.

Help Sells Product

As mentioned, creating a prototype allows a company to determine if there are any issues with the design, as they will be able to physically manipulate a working model of the product that they want to produce in the future. However, developing a prototype will also make it easier for a company to sell their prospective product to potential investors and customers, as they will also be able to see and hold the item during the sales pitch.

A prototype is a physical manifestation or representation of the concept that prospective investors can manipulate. More often than not, potential investors will look elsewhere for projects to invest in if they are unable to grasp or manipulate a prototype, as it can be hard for most investors to get behind a concept on its own and sign a purchase order.

Furthermore, the input of the final target demo should also never be taken for granted. While testers and designers may marvel at a prototype, the final target customer may not like it or may have issues with certain aspects of the prototype. As the famous adage goes, “the customer is always right”, so they must always be considered during prototype development.

The good news is that external testing and focus groups can be arranged so that prospective customers can provide their input on the prototypes that the company designs. In the end, the customer must like the product, because failure to get behind the product will ensure that they will not purchase it and that they will likely switch to another provider to meet their needs.

The Importance of Patents

In some cases, products that are very unique or new will require patents for protection. There have been noted cases where a company designed and manufactured a good product, only to have a competitor knock off their product because they failed to obtain a utility or design patent to protect key components of the original product.

Having a working prototype may mitigate such issues, as it allows a company to meet a patent lawyer and work together to determine what aspects of the design can be patented. In fact, the company may discover that certain aspects of the design and the prototype actually violate patents that have already been issued to other competing companies.

As such, a company whose prototype violates existing patents will be able to change the final product enough so that they can avoid a lawsuit in the future, while also protecting certain design elements of their product that can actually be protected from being duplicated or stolen by competitors.

To learn more about why prototyping is an important step in manufacturing, call Circuits Central at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.

How to Choose PCB Components

Deciding on which PCB components to go with can be a challenging task, as there are a wide array of different options to choose from. From component footprint decisions to checking spare gates, there are several different factors that need to be strongly considered before you decide on which printed circuit board component to go with. Here, we provide some tips or recommendations that you may want to consider before you decide on which PCB components to select for your business.

Consider Component Footprint

Here, we are referring to the layout phase, where land pattern and footprint decisions will need to be considered. In fact, you should think about the component footprint decisions throughout the drawing phase of the schematics involved. It is also important to note that the footprints will include both the mechanical components as well as the electrical pad connections of the part in question.

In other words, it will involve both the pins that affix to the printed circuit board as well as the body outline of the component. As such, when you are deciding on which component to select you should consider any packing or housing limitations that you may come across during the evaluation of the bottom and top sides of the finalized printed circuit board.

For instance, polarized capacitors and other such components often have height clearance limitations that need to be factored as part of the selection process of the unit. When you commence a design layout you may want to draw a rudimentary board outline shape and then place the connectors, or other such critically placed components, that you are thinking of utilizing. By doing so you will be able to create a virtual render of the PCB that is not only quick but will also not require any routing.

The resulting visualization can then be used to create a very accurate visual representation of the heights of the component and boards as well as their relative positioning. Then you will be able to ensure that all of the parts involved-such as the mechanical frame, chassis, and plastic-will fit inside of the packaging once the printed circuit board has been assembled.

Prepare for Changes

Your component choices may change as you go through various different designs. The design process is ever-changing, and you should consider which components will use surface plated technology and which components will be plated through-hole. By choosing which route to go with beforehand the entire planning process of your printed circuit board will become simplified. Power dissipation, component area density, the cost of components, as well as their availability, are all things that you need to strongly consider before deciding on which printed circuit board component to go with.

Generally speaking, surface mounted technology components tend to be easier to access and obtain than their plated through-hole component counterparts. Moreover, they also tend to be less expensive, at least from a manufacturing perspective, vis-a-vis their plated through-hole component brethren.

Interestingly, for medium and smaller prototyping tasks larger through-hole parts or surface mounted technology components are recommended in order to facilitate superior signal and pad access for debugging and troubleshooting tasks and they may also streamline the hand soldering process as well. It is also important to note that a customized footprint can be devised from within the tool in the event that a specific footprint cannot be obtained in the database.

Enforce Good Grounding Practices

The design that you incorporate should have an adequate amount of ground planes and bypass capacitors. In the event that you are working with ICs, you should make certain that you are utilizing the appropriate number of decoupling capacitors in close proximity to the supply of a ground plane or other such location.

Evidently, the capacitor size that you select will be largely determined by the frequencies that are involved, as well as the capacitor technology that is being implemented and the type of application. In sum, following good grounding practices is very important because it will allow your printed circuit boards to have optimized susceptibility performance as well as superior electromagnetic compliance.

Properly Assign Virtual Part Footprints

It is also highly recommended that you run a bill of materials, or BOM, in order to check for any virtual components. There are no footprints associated with virtual components and they will not be transferred to the layout phase either. By creating a bill of materials you will be able to able to assess all of the virtual parts on the design.

In terms of entries, you should only enter ground and power signals, as they are actually virtual components that are handled specifically in the schematic environment instead of the layout environment. In sum, components that are found in the virtual section should always be replaced by components that actually have footprints, unless they are being utilized for simulation reasons only.

Check the Spare Gates

In order to prevent the inputs from floating, all of your spare gates should have their inputs properly affixed to a signal. Unfortunately, gates can sometimes be omitted or forgotten, so you should take the time to inspect all of the forgotten or spare gates in order to ensure that any inputs that are unwired can be properly affixed if necessary. While rare, floating inputs can sometimes cause serious problems, such as causing the entire system to not operate as intended.

To learn more about choosing the right PCB Components, call Circuits Central at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.


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