Developing sensors for the global medical market

March 06, 2013 // By James McKenna
Many technology trends in the medical device market are global, including miniaturization, low power consumption and liquid media compatibility; however, materials compliance, product requirements, and cost issues can vary from country to country.

This translates into the need for sensor manufacturers to provide flexible and scalable product lines to meet global requirements. They also have to ensure quality of product and quality of supply. To meet the requirements of global medical device makers, sensor manufacturers need to consider four key issues - miniaturization, materials and regulatory compliance, supplier quality assurance, and service and support.

Miniaturization affects size, portability and weight

Medical device designers are faced with the challenge to develop smaller, lighter and more portable equipment to save real estate in patient rooms and to allow medical professionals to move equipment from room to room. Equipment that benefits from miniaturization includes infusion or insulin pumps as designs move from bulky to portable and ambulatory models.

By providing smaller size options, a sensor can be more easily integrated into space-constrained infusion pump designs, as an example. Small size and low power consumption helps improve a patient's quality of life by increasing the portability of the infusion pump.

There also is a trend by healthcare providers, particularly in the United States and the European Union, to transition patients from in-hospital care to home-care treatments. This also drives the need to miniaturize medical devices including respiratory and diagnostic equipment.

In some cases, miniaturization allows for some diagnostics to be built into networked medical devices to monitor a patient's care remotely. As a result, sensors that integrate multiple functions, such as temperature and humidity sensing, in a single package will be required. This will free up board space to reduce the size of the medical device or allow for higher functionality. Medical devices that can benefit from integration include respiratory therapy, including ventilators and sleep apnea machines.


Fig. 1: The modular design of Honeywell Sensing and Control's TruStability board-mount pressure sensors enables infusion pump manufacturers to select a single sensor platform across multiple product designs.


Another way sensor manufacturers meet these needs is by developing