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Key challenges for medical devices and the importance of PCBs in health technology

medical pcb assembly

Technology and medicine always go together, because it is precisely the advance of knowledge and medicinal techniques in society that determines the longevity and people’s life quality. While the Cyborg character from Justice League comic strip may still be far from reality, Robocop (2014)’s  robotic prosthetics are not so fictional. It all depends on the new processors, biological technologies and the union of it all: printed circuit boards. Here are some of the main challenges in the area:

Implants: the challenge of maintenance

Unlike prosthetics, implants are not technologies used to replace an organ or limb, but rather to be “added” to the body, to help regulate some biological function, or to measure vital data. One of the main problems of the implants is the maintenance:

A simple recharge of battery can mean a new surgical process.The complications of an implant beggins in the assembly: An electronic device built to be housed inside a living creature needs to take certain precautions as to its size, its shape and the material with which it will be made.

This is an extra challenge for building the PCB, which must be precise to make the device operational and not harmful to the user.Certain types of implants, such as defibrillators, pacemakers, and neural stimulators for spine pain treatments, require battery replacement.

Some ideas, such as the patent registered by Joeny Chen (2015) propose a system of recharge via wireless network, thus avoidin an unnecessary  surgical process and its possible complications. The user just need to approaches the charger of the device.

There are even more ambitious ideas, such as the use of biological energy to recharge the device, but there are still no big effective results around that.

Security: Nothing is perfectly safe in the digital age

About a decade ago, researchers in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, from Harvard Medical School in Bostom warned of a potential safety breach in pacemaker devices.

The devices usually lie under the patient’s skin, with tiny wires touching the user’s  heart, or even penetrating the heart muscle. At the arrhythmia signal, a small electrical pulse returns the heart to its normal functions.

At the same time, a nearby device in the possession of the patient receives the biological information of the patient, the history of activities and other medical information of equal importance via wireless network. Such information is extremely useful for the medical follow-up of the pacemaker holder, as well as day-to-day care.

The failure discovered by the ressearches consists of some tests performed aiming the security of the wireless system. The scientists were able to “hack” the device using a second “pirate” antenna.

They found that it was possible to obtain confidential information about the patient (a fact that is already worrying), as well as the possibility of altering the functions of the implant and possibly causing the electrical impulses to be activated at an improper moment and in an inappropriate way, constituting a major risk to the life of the device user.

The same could be said of any device that uses wireless technology to activate biological correctors (such as automatic insulin injections).

In the study, however, researchers made it clear that despite the seriousness of the problem, it is not necessarily “easy” to hake this system, and that there has never been a documented case so far. But they left a warning for the possible risks of the future.

In 2018, researchers Billy Rios of security firm WhiteScope and Jonathan Butts of QED Security Solutions have reached the pinnacle of a quarrel with Medtronic company, which makes the Carelink 2090 pacemakers.

The reason is disagreements about Medtronic product, which Rivers and Butts have proven on several occasions as unsafe. According to the work of the duo, it is even possible to use an Iphone to remotely disrupt a a potential victim’s pacemaker, proving a serious risk to the user’s health.

Although Medtronic argues that it has regularized the vulnerabilities and taken the risks as small, Rivers and Butts continue to warn of how easily assassinations could be committed using the system.

This kind of event is a major challenge not only for programmers, but also for PCB factories. Whether in the case of viruses or mainly by manipulating wireless networks, investing in the security of an internal pacemaker can lead to increased battery consumption or processing capabilities.

This creates an extra layer of responsibility for the company that will create the PCBs, which needs to build a product as practical as it is effective.

The practicality of a prosthesis: a conversation with the brain

Most amputee prostheses have made great strides in speed of response and precision of mo vement. But one thing still remains a problem: We do not know how to effective talk directly to the human brain.

While it sounds extremely natural to typing text, picking up a pencil or kicking a ball, transmitting these signals to an artificial prosthesis has proved to be extremely complicated. We have not yet been able to create a system to directly read the brain’s impulses from the nervous system to limb movement, nor the reverse path:

The creation of electrical impulses directly by the prosthesis, which would be read by the brain, at least not from a simple and uncomplicated (and avoiding surgeries and brain implants, which are delicate). In return, scientists have bypassed the problem with a smart solution.

Cludia Mitchel had her left arm amputated, and currently her prosthesis is one of the most sophisticated on the market, achieving up to four times faster than other available prostheses. To do so, the scientists resorted to a shortcut:

they linked the nerve endings of her arm to muscles in her chest and back. That way, when trying to move the arm, she involuntarily triggers muscles in those areas. Then, electronic receivers receives the movement of muscles and drive the engines of the prosthesis, causing the mechanism to move much more naturally.

Claudia still feels the sensation of touch in he  arm when someone touches the muscles to which the nerves were connected. Recent studies by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, US, have just tried to emulate the feeling of pressure in the movement of the prosthesis, so that the signal can be received by the muscles and taken to the brain. The research has been quite promising.

Medical devices occupy a prominent place among today’s technological components. First, because your operation can not have serious flaws, from which people’s lives may depend.

With the worldwide conversion to the digital age, the facilities of technological devices grow as their vulnerabilities and exposure grow. Another reason is the immense range of possibilities that arise with the new technologies.

Of course, with all these advances, more challenges arise. The medical field will need more and more dedicated and competent professionals, not only in software but also in the hardware of modern technologies. RayMing Technology support medical Hardware like PCB manufacturing ,Medical PCB Assembly  more than 10 years .

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