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Devices with Force
Getting the most functionality and benefits out of medical devices is a common goal among designers. One technology that offers an array of advantages
that enhance the quality of treatment a device can provide is force sensors.
These components can be used in a number of applications to substantially
increase effectiveness. This article looks at several real-world examples.
Mark Lowe, VP of Sensor Business, Tekscan Inc.
The integration of force sensors into med- ical devices results in tools that produce quantifiable and actionable data. Force
feedback has become an increasingly valuable
feature in the medical device market. The ability
of a medical device to provide proper feedback
to a doctor or patient helps to eliminate guesswork, create consistency, and improve patient
outcomes. When designing a new medical
device, whether it is for a therapeutic, diagnostic, or surgical purpose, the design engineer
must take into account the size, accuracy, and
cost of materials. The thin and flexible nature of
piezoresistive, tactile force sensors makes this
technology the ideal force sensing solution for
designing medical devices. These force sensors
are not only easy to integrate due to their small
size compared to load cells and strain gauges, but they also use simple electronics. The
lightweight, easy-to-integrate features allow
biomedical design engineers to produce highly
accurate, non-invasive devices, suitable for
Medical devices providing force feedback are
helpful to both doctors and patients. Doctors and
surgeons can use these devices during physical
assessments or surgery, whereas patients use
these medical tools as assistive living devices.
For example, force feedback has become a key
contributing factor to less invasive surgical pro-
cedures. Small devices, such as surgical grippers,
allow the surgeon access into parts of the body
not easily accessible. When force sensors are
designed into these grippers, the device is able
to relay messages of force measurement back to
the surgeon. These grippers are often used to
hold very small and sensitive parts of the body,
such as veins and soft tissues. The integration of
force sensors allows surgeons to better monitor
the pressures they are applying to the operative
areas and make proper adjustments throughout
Assistive living devices are a growing
market in which force feedback devices are
important to the patient recovery process.
After a diagnosis, patients can utilize assistive
living devices to help monitor their health and
progression while returning to their everyday
routine. It is also important for these devices to
be small and lightweight so they are nonintru-sive to the patient. Thin, flexible force sensors
Thin, flexible force sensors are
integrated into assistive
devices, such as drug-delivery
infusion pumps, which help
detect potentially life-threatening blockages.