How PCB assembly contributes to modern medicine and its emergence

Article By : Suresh Patel, Mer-Mar Electronics

The contribution of PCB assembly in the healthcare industry will keep growing in line with the increasing demand for sophisticated and efficient medical equipment.

The focus of modern medicine is not just to cure or prevent diseases but also to enhance the well-being and longevity of human beings. Health care innovation is the key factor in modern medicine and its emergence. This is largely supported by new technology penetration in all sectors of medicine and health care. The increasing role of the PCB technologies in implantable medical devices, monitoring, and diagnostic healthcare equipment are well noticed. The electronics industry has enabled a smartphone to monitor health parameters today!

The contribution of PCB assembly in the healthcare industry will keep growing as the demand for sophisticated and efficient medical equipment is also increasing. Flexible PCBs are the vital components in medical equipment such as handheld monitors, pacemakers, and imaging devices, to name a few. The rigid-flex PCBs remove the connector requirements and reduce the production cost significantly. Hence, they shall continue to be an integral part of all implantable and portable medical devices.

PCB assembly is always optimized as per the end application. Hence, while designing PCBs for medical equipment, the following considerations are essential:

  • Product accuracy is critical in medical PCBs as safety is the highest priority in such applications. The ability to measure the gadget’s precision over its lifespan is an important consideration in medical PCB design.
  • The size of healthcare devices is usually small and hence the design will be compact. Focus on miniature design to fit in smaller medical devices is crucial.
  • Adhering to the compliance standard of a medical PCB design is very important. Meeting installation, operation, and process requirement standards is mandatory while designing a PCB for medical applications.
  • Delivering reliable results in extreme work conditions is critical, as these devices are used for life-saving purposes.

By fulfilling all the above requirements, PCB assemblies are contributing significantly to the manufacturing of various types of healthcare devices.

Implantable medical devices (IMB) are using specialized PCB assemblies in applications such as cardiac pacemakers, coronary stents, interocular lenses, and cochlear implants, among others. The PCB specification should be very precise in such design, as the operation of the implant device is unique.

Modern medicine depends on sophisticated diagnostic and imaging devices. Medical PCB assembly is exhaustively used in applications like ultrasound equipment, computerized axial tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) apparatus. Health care professionals depend on these diagnostic and imaging devices to select the effective treatment line for their patients.

PCB assembly further contributes to a range of monitoring devices starting from the body temperature monitors to blood pressure monitors, oximeters, etc. The latest trends in fitness have enhanced the usage of wearable fitness monitors and activity trackers also.

The need for medical equipment is growing extensively along with the requirement for competent manufacturers. PCB manufacturers are optimizing the design and assembly process to meet the technological demands of healthcare equipment by:

  • Providing swift prototyping with aggressive schedules.
  • Offering system integration for the complete medical equipment prototyping.
  • Obtaining necessary industry-standard certifications and training.
  • Meeting RoHS requirements for lead-free designs
  • Maintaining an efficient documentation process for quick traceability.

As part of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, every medical equipment has to be tested against EMI/EMC (IEC 60601-1-2) by a certified laboratory. To be compliant with medical equipment standards, certain design guidelines are followed by medical PCB designers to restrict the electromagnetic interference on the circuit board. They are:

  • Routing high-speed signal traces between ground planes in a multilayer stack-up can reduce the potential signal crosstalk and limit radiating emissions.
  • Reducing the trace length to the shortest possible length eliminates the chances of noise radiation created by antennas.
  • Adding sufficient Bypass capacitors across every power pin of the active components can reduce the current surge across the board.
  • To shield sensitive circuits, adding copper fills around noisy components along with stitching vias can assist in reducing the EMI.
  • Creating separate ground planes for analog and digital circuitry. This is to avoid any split planes in the return path that may add noise to the circuit.

The PCB manufacturing process is continuously evolving to keep up with the growing trends of modern medicine. Recently, we have seen great progress in the medical support system due to the contribution of PCB assembly. Medical equipment manufacturers are continuously testing various equipment which make higher demand for faster PCB prototyping.

Mobile healthcare support is possible today and patients are benefitted immensely from this facility. The COVID-19 era has spotlighted the significance of mobile healthcare services. Health parameters like heart rate, blood sugar, and oxygen saturation level in the blood, for instance, can be checked easily with handheld monitoring devices. Also, the wireless network has enabled online video consulting facilities now. Within a hospital, the electronic health record (EHR) system has allowed online availability of patient data with quick access and update facility. The aggregated information can assist in developing data-driven medicine which in turn can enhance the success rate of treatments provided.

The latest fitness trends have increased the demand for wearable health accessories like Fitbit, activity trackers, etc. Also, the growth in implantable health devices has enhanced the tracking of vital parameters and early detection of ailments. Overall, PCB assemblies have contributed enormously to the advanced medical system by providing cost-effective, reliable, and intuitive medical devices.

With the growing popularity of wearable and implantable medical devices, the production of medical PCBs has shot up tremendously. By analyzing the existing medical problems, a PCB designer can work towards building a practical and flexible solution. Flex or rigid-flex PCBs are chosen by medical industry professionals as the emphasis is on precision, size, and consistency of the healthcare devices. Many PCB assembly providers have practical experience in this domain. Thus, collaborating with a qualified contract manufacturer can add great value to the design and production of Medical PCBs.

Suresh Patel has worked as a Sales Engineer and other management roles at Mer-Mar Electronics. He brings 25 years of experience in printed-circuit-board sales and technical client service and managing business. You can connect with him on Twitter.


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