Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to David Smith, Project Manager at Contour Electronics. Contour Electronics are a UK based manufacturer of Cable Assemblies and Electronic Devices with a specific focus on the Medical Device market.
Good morning David and Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Perhaps we could start by asking you to tell us why you chose to exhibit at CompaMed again this year?
Contour Electronics exhibited at Compamed for the first time last year, and it was a great step towards expanding our business in the medical electronics market. We found the show attracted just the right target audience for us, and we made some interesting connections, some of which are developing into several potential large contracts. Compamed is an excellent exhibition alongside the parent Medica and brings visitors from all around the world and so it presents an excellent opportunity to network and meet new contacts.
Thank you. Can you tell me what specific themes in the area of electronics you feel are particularly valuable and relevant to medical device manufacturers?
Design for Manufacture is a big one. We can add real value by being involved early on in the product development process with engineers, enabling them to iterate early and thereby avoiding potential costly oversights in the early development stages. In our experience, involving the supply chain at an early stage is critical and allows the manufacturer to extend their knowhow by utilising the expertise on hand at suppliers. At Contour we have experts available who can advise from design concept through to volume production and beyond. It means that manufacturers have the opportunity to get to market quicker with the right product, and get ahead of their competition.
What about solutions for disposable devices?
We understand that reusable devices are still very popular, but we are seeing an increased interest in electronics for disposable devices. Infection control and cross-contamination is obviously a huge topic, especially in busy environments, where many staff are coming and going and in situations where cleanliness isn’t maintained there is a risk to pass on infections or worse. Reusable devices are reliant on the sterilisation process to kill any potential risks and this process must be validated in order to ensure the device is fit for use after sterilisation. In addition to this, reusable devices often need to use expensive materials in order to withstand the harsh environment and processes used for repeated sterilisation. On the opposite side, disposable devices are designed to be sterilised and used only one time and as a result unit cost can often be reduced by using a wider choice of engineering materials. Our expertise with material selection for disposable devices has helped several OEMs to convert their existing reusable devices and make them suitable for the disposable market and this in turn has given the OEM the opportunity to offer both options to the end user.
We hear that expertise with biocompatible plastics, integrated with electronics components, is particularly sought after by manufacturers?
Yes, that’s right. We have recently advised manufacturers with bio-compatible materials selection. Our experience and knowhow of materials which are bio-compatible, suitable for sterilisation and cost effective have helped our customers to overcome a real problem which presents itself all too often in medical device product development.
No interview would be complete without asking about cost. What is your view on low-cost manufacturing overseas versus on-shoring manufacturing capacity here in Europe?
In our experience, the cost of electronic components is paramount when planning a large-scale integration project. Our aim is to keep unit price to a minimum for our customers, and that means manufacturing in low cost locations. At the same time, high service levels need to be maintained. Contour Electronics has been manufacturing in the Far East for 20+ years, and we have built up a network of trusted contacts who we know and trust to deliver great service, which also meets the high standards required by medical manufacturers.
What trends do you see in the design and production of medical electronics?
Customer lead-times are getting shorter and in response, we see additive manufacturing and 3D printing really taking off. At one time, 3D printing was an add-on to a product design team. Increasingly we are seeing additive manufacturing embedded into the product development lifecycle. There are huge savings to be made with 3D printing in terms of cost, time and overall efficiency and as the demand increases we see the opportunity to invest in our own 3D printing capability so we can respond to our own customer demands a lot quicker. New manufacturing processes used for assembly can also often create a potential unknown roadblock and we have a team of innovative engineers capable of developing, testing and verifying or validating processes to overcome these hurdles.
The clean room environment is a critical issue when embedding electronics into a medical device, right?
Yes, absolutely. At Contour Electronics we understand that cleanliness is important in this industry and we have recently invested in a large-scale, high classification cleanroom where all of our assembly is undertaken for medical devices. All of our personnel are required to follow strict procedures and maintain a high level of cleanliness throughout. This gives our customers confidence that the products they receive are clean and any potential bio-burden is kept to a minimum prior to onward processing such as final assembly, packaging or sterilisation. It is the only way to make sure we keep a close eye on our own infection control processes to make sure we deliver the best possible solution to our medical clients.
Interesting. Given this investment, does that mean you are planning to ramp up your business in the medical sector? And if so, what other themes do you hope to address in providing your customers a quality Electronics Manufacturing Service?
Yes, absolutely. We see great opportunities for medical device manufacturers to develop bespoke electronic manufacturing solutions and we feel that we have the right expertise to support manufacturers, early on in their product development lifecycle. From the OEM perspective, if they can go to one vendor that is able to assist with design and specification and project manage the manufacturing process, they can see huge benefits in terms of ensuring the project is a success. It is a very efficient way of working. At Contour Electronics for example, we can handle everything in the Design for Manufacture process, including engineering drawings, tooling, material procurement, prototyping, pilot production, process validation and so on. If we can help our customers get to market quicker, then that is a win-win for everyone in the value chain.
Thank you David for your time today, and we wish you a successful show.