Devil in the Details: Designing in Electronics for Next-Gen Medical Devices

The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated innovations that take medtech solutions outside clinical settings and into individual users’ hands.

In the Sager Electronics/Molex webinar titled Smaller, Faster, Connected: What Matters in Medtech Now, I recently discussed with other Molex experts the subject of accelerating medtech trends. We examined the increasingly complex electronics medical devices require to create real-time, lifesaving connections between doctors and patients.

Doing More with Less

Next-gen medical devices transmit data from patients to the cloud through encrypted networks, creating a connected health ecosystem. To overcome challenges involved with designing wearable, portable devices, medtech OEM suppliers need to provide smaller and more flexible solutions while, at the same time, helping engineers incorporate durability, functionality and usability into their product designs.

Additionally, as telehealth connects more patients and healthcare providers, the need for network security becomes increasingly crucial.

Medtech Market Evolution: More Micro-Interconnects and Wireless

Many of today’s medical products require interconnects that yield increased electronic performance without adding too much bulk or weight. As a result, medtech architectures have become more modular and now utilize fine-pitch interconnects for displays and between PCBs, batteries and I/O ports.

For example, the need for fast-charging batteries combined with design goals that include miniaturization in products like wearables drives a demand for ever-smaller interconnects between device components like batteries, displays and charging circuits. Likewise, with increased data acquisition and storage, medical devices require architectures that support high-speed communication—both internally on the backplane and between devices—while taking up a minimal amount of real estate. 

Furthermore, connectivity to the cloud requires excellent RF performance, increasing the need for well-designed wireless circuits and multiple antennas. To save development time, reduce risk and lower costs, more developers are turning to off-the-shelf or semicustom antennas, and they’re often using techniques such as designing in backup wireless systems and multiple antennas (MIMOs) to improve wireless reliability.

The Role of Hybrid and Optical Connectivity

Hybrid connector solutions are designed to solve current and next-gen requirements for low latency, higher data rates and the need to have robust reliable connector interfaces. Optical technology offers industry-standard LC and MPO connectors, along with other options, as well as a wide range of connectors that provide increased density and the capability to incorporate electrical signal, power and pneumatics. 

When space constraints are an issue, hybrid designs can reduce the number of connectors needed and provide easy installation for most applications. In addition, medical environments need robust solutions that are easy to use while being highly reliable. For instance, jacketing options using metal conduits provide superior crush force protection from patient cart rollover while still being highly flexible to ensure they lay flat to help prevent trip hazards. The use of hybrid connectivity also can bridge the transition from electrical to optical by combining fiber and Copper in a single connector housing.

Printed Circuit Solutions for the Medical Market

To design next-gen medical devices, developers require a wide array of printed circuits, such as user interface products, flexible circuitry and sensor solutions, and need to access these while simplifying their procurement processes. Furthermore, engineering support from printed circuit suppliers is crucial to meet form, fit and function requirements and optimize mass production processes.  

Tune in to the Sager Electronics/Molex webinar titled Smaller, Faster, Connected: What Matters in Medtech Now and discover how we employ a consultative approach to developing cutting-edge solutions for connected health device manufacturers.