Component distributor Mouser’s recently launched “Medical Applications” microsite helps engineers select the right components for their patient monitoring and diagnosis applications. The site features an overview of devices such as pulse oximeters, blood-pressure monitors, digital thermometers, and digital stethoscopes. Using a block diagram, engineers can click on different parts of the system and select solutions from major manufacturers (see the figure). Other site resources include videos, articles, and design guides.
“We have had tremendous response to the new site and the corresponding newsletter that was sent out on May 3,” Raymond Yin, Technical Content Director at Mouser, told Electronic Design Europe. “Over 7000 customers have clicked through to view either the medical site itself, details of the featured products, or one of the technical articles. We are still collecting feedback from the community, but the bounce rate is fairly low, so customers are clearly seeing value in the content.”
The site’s popularity during its first month can be traced to Europe’s large and somewhat aging population, which keeps the medical-device market healthy despite the recent economic downturn. Western European countries are expected to return to growth in this sector, with leading markets averaging a CAGR of 3.4% to 2016, according to analyst Espicom (see “Facts And Figures: The European Medical Device Market”). Germany, the UK, and France constitute three of the world’s five biggest markets for medical-device technology, and each spends a high proportion of GDP on health.
Like all engineers, medical-device designers face a constant battle to stay up-to-date with new products and technologies. Medical devices are undergoing a transition to lighter and more portable form factors, with low-power and battery-management technologies garnering lots of attention. A variety of devices are incorporating wireless connectivity, too.
“There are reports that claim within two years, one-third of all patient monitoring will be wireless,” says Yin. “These interfaces run the gamut from short-range point-to-point such as the new Bluetooth low-power standard, to wireless mesh networking for creating a ‘body area network,’ to long-distance cellular protocols that transmit vital patient data to a central location.”
If staying up-to-date with the latest technologies isn’t enough, engineers in the medical-device field also must cope with some of the strictest regulations and certifications in the industry. The regulatory approval process for Class IIa, IIb, and III medical devices can take years from the initial product concept, including lengthy clinical trials. These long design cycles mean component obsolescence must be carefully considered to avoid product redesign at a later stage.
Here’s where the Web resources enter the picture. Information provided by suppliers like Mouser, who have access to data from many leading component manufacturers, can be collated in one place and tailored specifically for medical-device engineers. Then the data is is presented in a way that makes it easy to keep up-to-date with developments in products and technologies.
“From the Medical Applications site, an engineer can gain a better understanding of certain equipment; then using system block-diagram navigation, find a solution that best fits their design goals,” says Yin. He points out that Mouser also supplies the latest Product Lifecycle information that’s of particular importance to the medical design community.
So can we expect to see microsites springing up in other areas?
“Absolutely!” he says. “We are currently working on an Audio microsite, which will be followed by topics such as USB 3.0, sensors, as well as other application areas of medical.
“The medical electronics industry is of vital importance to Mouser. We see it as a stable, consistently growing customer segment that we will continue to address with technical content and services.”
- Western Europe’s medical-device market is expected to reach a CAGR of 3.4% by 2016
- Germany is the third-largest medical-device market in the world, behind the US and Japan
- For 2010, the German medical-device market was estimated at US$17.5 billion
- The UK is also one of the largest medical-device markets in the world, valued at US$8.5 billion in 2011
- France spends 2.9% of its total health expenditure on medical equipment and supplies, which is 0.3% of its GDP
- The Spanish medical market ranks fifth in the EU and eighth in the world. In 2010, it was estimated at US$4.4 billion