“Smaller” is a word that most medical device designers are hearing more
often these days. It keeps in step with a trend that has been happening in this
industry for many years. Perhaps getting the biggest initial push from the demand for minimally invasive surgical technologies, miniaturization has since
touched virtually every device sector with requests for a smaller footprint or
more functionality in the same device footprint.
“It’s almost a prerequisite when operating within the body (no pun
intended)…that the devices and instruments have to be small. The fact is
that miniaturization – even sub-miniaturization – has been around for a long
time…just ask a watchmaker,” says Zahl Cama, quality manager of American
Swiss Products Co. Inc. “What has changed is the resolution and detail with
which a problem and possible solutions can be identified and conceptualized.
Peripheral developments in biomaterials, biological research initiatives down
to the cellular level, and the analytical tools (soft and hard) are augmenting
the tide of innovation in medical (and more broadly) technology today.”
Adding his own thoughts on the impact miniaturization is making on the
design of medical devices is Shawn Martin, sales manager at Metrigraphics.
“From our perspective, we look at it more as, ‘How is medical design impact-
ing miniaturization?’ As a micron-scale process developer and manufacturer,
we’re receiving more and more requests from biosensor and device designers
looking to push the limits – circuits need to bend and carry added functional-
ity, while line traces and spaces are smaller and tighter.”
While the demand is certainly there for smaller, better, more effective
medical devices, actually making them smaller is not so simple. There are
a number of challenges involved that likely would benefit greatly from the
expert insights of a “miniaturization specialist.”
“The need for miniaturization is driving the development of new pro-
cess technologies to manufacture complex components. In some cases, it is
impossible to manufacture separate pieces for separate functions and attach
them together to manufacture the device,” says Peter Ladwig, Ph.D., director
of technology development at Hutchinson Technology. “Our company tends
to excel at miniaturization and we receive requests for business from custom-
ers who have pushed the limits of the existing process technologies and need
new options to keep moving forward.”
Medical Design and Manufacture
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