Article by: Suresh Patel, Mer-Mar Electronics
The contribution of circuit board assembly to healthcare will continue to grow in line with the increasing demand for sophisticated and efficient medical devices.
The focus of modern medicine is not only on curing or preventing diseases, but also on increasing the well-being and longevity of people. Healthcare innovation is the key factor in modern medicine and its genesis. This is largely supported by the penetration of new technologies in all areas of medicine and health care. The increasing role of PCB technologies in implantable medical devices, monitoring and diagnostic devices in healthcare is well known. The electronics industry today has made it possible for a smartphone to monitor health parameters!
The contribution of circuit board assembly to healthcare will continue to grow as the demand for sophisticated and efficient medical devices increases. Flexible PCBs are the vital components in medical devices such as portable monitors, pacemakers, and imaging equipment, to name a few. The rigid-flexible circuit boards eliminate the requirements for the connectors and reduce production costs considerably. They should therefore continue to be an integral part of all implantable and wearable medical products.
The circuit board assembly is always optimized according to the end application. Therefore, when designing circuit boards for medical devices, it is important to consider the following:
- Product accuracy is critical in medical circuit boards as safety is a top priority in such applications. The ability to measure the accuracy of the device over its lifetime is an important consideration in the design of medical PCBs.
- The size of health devices is usually small, and therefore the design will be compact. The focus on miniature design for smaller medical devices is critical.
- Adhering to the compliance standard of a medical PCB design is very important. Compliance with installation, operational, and process requirements is mandatory when designing a printed circuit board for medical applications.
- Delivering reliable results under extreme working conditions is critical as these devices are life-saving.
By meeting all of the above requirements, PCB assemblies make a significant contribution to the manufacture of various types of healthcare equipment.
Implantable medical devices (IMB) use specialized PCB assemblies in applications such as pacemakers, coronary stents, interocular lenses, and cochlear implants, among others. The PCB specification should be very precise in such a design as the way the implant works is unique.
Modern medicine relies on sophisticated diagnostic and imaging equipment. Medical PCB assemblies are used extensively in applications such as ultrasound machines, computed axial tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. Healthcare professionals rely on these diagnostic and imaging equipment to select the effective line of treatment for their patients.
Circuit board assembly also contributes to a range of monitoring devices ranging from body temperature monitors to blood pressure monitors, oximeters, etc. The latest fitness trends have also improved the use of portable fitness monitors and activity trackers.
With the need for competent manufacturers, the need for medical devices is also growing rapidly. PCB manufacturers optimize the design and assembly process to meet the technological needs of healthcare equipment by:
- Rapid prototyping with aggressive schedules.
- Offers system integration for the complete prototyping of medical devices.
- Obtaining the necessary industry standard certifications and training.
- Meets RoHS requirements for lead-free designs
- Maintaining an efficient documentation process for quick traceability.
As part of the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), every medical device must be tested for EMI / EMC (IEC 60601-1-2) by a certified laboratory. To comply with medical device standards, medical circuit board designers follow certain design guidelines to limit the electromagnetic interference on the circuit board. They are:
- Routing high-speed signal traces between ground planes in a multilayer stack can reduce potential signal crosstalk and limit radiated emissions.
- Reducing the track length to the shortest possible length eliminates the likelihood of antenna noise.
- By adding sufficient bypass capacitors to each power connector of the active components, the surge can be reduced across the board.
- To shield sensitive circuits, adding copper fillings around noisy components along with stitching vias can help reduce EMI.
- Create separate ground planes for analog and digital circuits. This is to avoid split levels in the return path that can add noise to the circuit.
The PCB manufacturing process is constantly evolving to keep up with the growing trends in modern medicine. Recently we have seen great advances in the medical support system due to the contribution of printed circuit board assembly. Medical device manufacturers are constantly testing various devices that have increased demand for faster PCB prototyping.
Mobile health support is possible today and patients benefit immensely from this facility. The COVID-19 era has made the importance of mobile health services clear. Health parameters such as heart rate, blood sugar and oxygen saturation in the blood can be easily checked with handheld measuring devices. In addition, the wireless network has now made online video advice facilities possible. Within a hospital, the electronic health record system (EHR) has made patient data available online with quick access and update options. The aggregated information can help in the development of a data-driven medicine, which in turn can increase the success rate of the treatments offered.
The latest fitness trends have increased the demand for wearable health accessories like Fitbit, activity trackers, etc. The growth of implantable health devices has also improved vital signs tracking and the early detection of disease. Overall, PCB assemblies have made a tremendous contribution to the advanced medical system by providing inexpensive, reliable, and intuitive medical devices.
With the growing popularity of portable and implantable medical devices, the production of medical PCBs has increased tremendously. By analyzing existing medical problems, a PCB designer can work on a practical and flexible solution. Flex or rigid-flex circuit boards are chosen by professionals in the medical industry because the focus is on the precision, size, and consistency of the healthcare equipment. Many PCB assembly providers have practical experience in this area. Therefore, working with a qualified contract manufacturer can add great value to the design and production of medical circuit boards.
Suresh Patel worked as a sales engineer and in other management positions at Mer-Mar Electronics. He brings 25 years of experience in PCB sales and technical customer service as well as management. You can connect with him on Twitter.