When the “robot worm” is drilling around the corner... - Medical technology suppliers are making (almost) everything possible
The COMPAMED in Düsseldorf, the leading international trade fair for suppliers of medical technology took place from 16 to 19 November 2015, for the first time over a period of four days (Monday to Thursday) and was therefore completely parallel to the world's largest medical trade fair, MEDICA. Already prior to the kick-off, 779 exhibitors from 37 countries already provided for a new booking record in halls 8a and 8b.
“Where simple parts, components and equipment for technical devices and medical products had primarily been presented previously, COMPAMED today is a hotspot for complex high-tech solutions. That also requires more time for the intensive informational exchange among customers from the medical technology industry,” said Joachim Schäfer, managing director of Messe Düsseldorf, explaining why the COMPAMED exhibitors profit from extending the running time by one day. In addition, the positive response of the international specialist visitors remains at a high level. From a total of 130,000 specialist visitors to the MEDICA and COMPAMED, this year, 18,800 showed special interest for the range of topics at the COMPAMED, ranging from components to materials, micro- and nanotechnology all the way to contract manufacturing, packaging and services.
Once again, the following was shown: The developments of the suppliers can be of tremendous importance for improved out-patient and clinical care. According to indications made by the German Society for Hospital Hygiene (DGKH), around one million people infect themselves with germs in hospitals in Germany. Against this background, Bio Clean Care presented, at the COMPAMED 2015, new solutions to fight germs. Using micro-encapsulated hydrogen peroxide in concentrations under three percent, the company manages to disinfect ambient air and surfaces on a continual basis. "The development has taken place over the course of 20 years; now, we were able to present a world innovation at the COMPAMED,” rejoiced Klaus Klein, responsible for technology and development at Bio Clean Care.
Mobile units the size of air dehumidifiers are sufficient for spaces of up to 80 square metres. Functional tests that have been carried out by the Technical University of Aachen (RWTH) show a high level of effectiveness: After three days, disinfection is over 95 percent, after 28 days, disinfection of over 99.9 percent is achieved. Thereby, the required amount of hydrogen peroxide is around a factor of 10 to 100 under the permitted limit values. The costs for the procedure, which fulfils all international standards, are €800 per year for up to 500 m² of space, the required investment being €4,000. "According to the same active principle, we've also developed a unit for hand disinfection that reliably sterilises dry hands within 30 seconds by means of air,” explained Oliver Mücke, Sales Manager of Bio Clean Care.
“Plug & Play” – Networking is also a supper topic
Networking medical equipment in hospitals and operating theatres according to the "Plug and Play” principle can considerably increase patient safety, the quality of treatment and healthcare. For this, it is necessary that the networked devices use secure open standards and therefore "understand" each other. This has not been the case up until this point because the manufacturers of medical equipment have used their own communication protocols. It is therefore even more important to establish open standards and secure interfaces for networked equipment in hospitals and operating theatres. An important milestone on this path is the white paper "Interoperabilität von Geräten und Systemen in OP und Klinik" ("Interoperability of Equipment and Systems in Operating Theatres and Hospitals”), which was presented in Düsseldorf by the Association for Electric Technology, Electronics and Information Technology. “There is already a draft for an international standardisation. We assume that this will already be adopted in 2016,” said Johannes Dehm, an expert for medical technology at VDE. The association expects innovations with an open standard and secure interface in the coming five years.
Reliable transmission of data, signals and images
The Austrian System Industrie Electronic (S.I.E), a leading provider of embedded computer systems and modular human machine interfaces (HMIs), has already been dealing with the topic of networking. "Since we develop medical technology equipment on behalf of customers, we are following the topic of networking very intensively,” explained Christian Keil, Key Account Manager of Embedded Computing Technologies at S.I.E. In the field of HMI, the company has developed a modular system that is continually enhanced by industry-relevant hardware technologies. These include various technologies and factors for displays and touch sensitive units, scalable computer capacity or a variety of variable interfaces. Currently in trend among customers: An HMI concept for several systems of other product series – under certain circumstances even with completely different features. Molex, an internationally active manufacturer of full-range connection solutions, is also dealing with the topic of networking. "Today, life-saving medical devices are equipped with increasingly complex functions that require equally complex electronics for the reliable and effective transmission of data, signals, images and power,” said Anthony Kalaijakis, Strategic Marketing Manager for Medical Technology at Molex. For example, the company also uses its antenna technology, which has been integrated in almost every mobile phone today, for the field of medical telemetry.
Customised energy supply for a wide variety of purposes
Wireless units and systems of all kinds are also in demand. Their energy supply is provided by batteries and accumulators that are customised for application purposes in the field of medicine. Jauch Quartz offers complete solutions for battery systems in accordance with customer requirements, ranging from standard cells to customized packs and spanning from simple cells to intelligent battery packs for the most demanding areas of application. "Thereby we take special design requirements as well as all relevant safety aspects into consideration," emphasised Sönke Zacher, Sales Manager for Batteries at Jauch. In the process, specialists rely on various chemicals in the form of lithium-polymer, lithium-iron-phosphate, lithium-thionyl chloride, lithium-ion or lithium batteries. Increasingly smaller energy sources as flexible films are the current trend. "In addition, increasingly more mobile units with a battery supply are being used. The spectrum ranges from headlamps in the operating theatre to units for checking tooth stability and for blood analysis, all the way to pumps to remove wound secretions, where batteries can be worn on a belt,” commented Zacher.
At Litronik Batterietechnik, a company of the Micro Systems Technologies Group (MST), it has to do with even smaller systems. The Saxon company has specialised in the energy supply of implants. “We work with lithium-iodine batteries for long-lasting, low pulses as well as lithium-manganese-dioxide batteries for moderate to higher level pulses, as they are required for telemetry tasks among other things," explained Ilse Widmann, Marketing Manager at the MST Group. Furthermore, Litronik has developed high-performance batteries for implantable defibrillators with a high level of pulse capacity. "Each individual battery is thoroughly tested before its use; we even use X-rays for that,” commented Widmann. In the field of energy supply, on the one hand, development entails higher levels of power density and increasingly smaller dimensional sizes on the other.
For the first time, autoclavable mass flow sensors
Sensirion had a special innovation to offer at the COMPAMED 2015. One of the leading manufacturers worldwide of high-quality sensors and sensor solutions for measuring and controlling moisture, gas and liquid flow rates presented autoclavable mass flow meters for gases for the first time. The sensors "SFM3200-AW" and "SFM3300-AW" are especially suitable for respiratory flow measurements in medical applications such as artificial respiration or anaesthesia. "Thanks to highly detailed work, we have managed to keep the chips stable even under the conditions present in autoclaves and when washing in disinfection solutions," reported Dr. Andres Laib, Vice President Sales & Marketing. Like all the sensors made by Sensirion, the new components are based on the patented "CMOSens” technology which makes possible the integration of sensor and evaluation electronics on a single tiny CMOS silicon chip. The new sensors are already used at Weinmann Emergency.
Coatings are a never-ending hot topic at the COMPAMED. Here, Surfix has developed new possibilities at the nano scale, that should be especially used for biosensors, microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip systems. “In the process, we were able to implement a combination of different functional coats onto a single component,” explained Dr. Anke Schütz-Trilling, research and development scientist at Surfix. Thereby, hydrophobic, hydrophilic or protein repelling surfaces are possible side by side, whereby the areas involved have to be initially activated and locally coated afterwards. By means of this, for example, the problem of micro-channel clogging can be avoided, water can be pumped with less pressure or the specific coupling of enzymes and proteins can be achieved.
The new development by the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems (ENAS) deals with a special kind of combination. Together with PolyDiagnost and MR:comp, the Chemnitz researchers have developed an MR-safe micro-endoscope with ultrasound functionality for parallel use as a diagnostics and therapy tool. The endoscope head, which is only five millimetres in size, is equipped with two light guides and an ultrasonic transducer that should destroy tumour cells with its acoustic waves. In order to avoid interferences in the MRT, the endoscope is made of ceramic and the plastic, PEEK. "The combination of light and ultrasound is new and makes the endoscope an active element," explained Dr. Mario Baum from ENAS. The new instrument should be used for brain examinations in the case of Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, or tumours.
Robot-supported operations in the inner ear
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) also presented a completely new instrument at the COMPAMED. In the future, the “Robot Worm”, NiLiBoRo, should make possible a gentle and quick access to the middle ear. The non-linear drilling robot can also drill around the corner and, in the case of inner ear tumours, carry out minimally invasive operations in this way. “The drill has a hydraulic drive and is composed of segments with a flexible connection. Controlling the head takes place using inflatable cushions located at the sides,” said Jonathan Schächtele, Project Manager of Medical Technology Control Systems at IPA. The project has only been running for a year, but there are already functional prototypes. Components have already been successfully tested. Functional samples should be available in two years – considerations are already being made to also use the robot worm in brain surgery.
Light sources based on LEDs have already reached the field of medical technology. Under the name “Solidur”, Schott, an expert for special glass, has presented LEDs that can be sterilised for extreme conditions. By means of this, a fully autoclavable light source can be installed into the tips of medical devices, thereby bringing light very near the area to be treated. "The hermetically encapsulated LEDs have shown in tests that they withstand more than 3,500 autoclave cycles without damage,” reported Christoph Stangl, Technical Sales Manager for opto-electronics at Schott. Due to the gas-tight housing made of inorganic, non-ageing materials such as metal, glass and ceramic, they withstand high temperatures, chemicals, corrosion and pressure. Customer specific housings, caps and lenses are possible. In addition customers can choose between three basic types: the smallest autoclavable LED worldwide, the first autoclavable ring-shaped LED as well as - known under the name TO LED - an autoclavable all-rounder that is easy to integrate.
The demand for disposable products with sterile packaging is rising
As always, packaging was an important topic again this year at the COMPAMED. Inpac Medizintechnik works as a service provider in this field and supplies medical products in sterile packaging. "We have standardised processes based on beta and gamma radiation, on gas, meaning ethylene oxide, and on steam. In addition to this, we work together with certified sterilisation companies," said Dr. Birgit Fischer, Sales Manager at Inpac. The demand for disposable products with sterile packaging is continuously rising. Recently, the current trend has entailed packaging parts that have been designated for operations, for example, and made using 3D printing methods.
The expert forums integrated into the COMPAMED, the COMPAMED SUPPLIERS FORUM by DeviceMed for developments along the entire process chain, as well as the COMPAMED HIGH-TECH FORUM organised, like the IVAM product market, by the IVAM Professional Association for Microtechnology, were once again strongly focused upon by specialist visitors in line with their interests. “The trade fair went very well for the exhibitors of the product market. Individual exhibitors were able to make such good preliminary conclusions directly after the first day of the trade fair that they made a direct decision to participate again in 2016. At the COMPAMED HIGH-TECH FORUM, the day-long focus on `Smart Sensor Solutions´ received very good visitor feedback in particular. "The `Neurotechnology´ session organised by the IVAM in cooperation with the Fraunhofer IZM from Berlin was well received,” said Mona Okroy-Hellweg of IVAM, making a considerably positive summary of the event.
Date of the next COMPAMED (and MEDICA): 14 – 17 November 2016.
Author: Klaus Jopp, freelance technical writer for science and technology (Hamburg)