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How Platform Sensors Can Help Developers of Ventilators and Anesthesia Systems

How Platform Sensors Can Help Developers of Ventilators and Anesthesia Systems
The second installment in our six-part series on platform sensors covers the advantages of flexible sensor designs for engineers working on ventilators and anesthesia systems.  

By designing in modular airflow and pressure sensors, anesthesia equipment and ventilator manufacturers can streamline manufacturing, maintenance, and product-use training. A platform approach for sensing devices provides thousands of options to allow for fast adaptation to various package styles, shapes, and sizes. It also allows designers to use the same basic sensor design across product lines. For example, designs for neonatal and adult ventilators may use the same basic sensor with only a change in calibration.

Honeywell TruStability HSC/SS – 26PC Liquid Media Compatible sensors allow customers to use one port of the sensor with condensing humidity or non-corrosive liquid media, such as de-ionized water, eliminating the complexity and expense of having to protect the sensor from this type of media.

One major challenge in any kind of respiratory equipment design is the use of different air pumps from various manufacturers. This means achieving the same output from each piece of equipment will be a little different, requiring flexible sensor capabilities. In addition, designs will vary, encompassing different sizes and lengths of the airflow channel, which impacts packaging requirements and how the airflow is sensed.

In anesthesia equipment, which delivers drugs to patients so they either don’t experience the discomfort of a medical procedure or reduces or eliminates their pain, airflow sensors measure air, oxygen, and nitrous-oxide flow, so the specified amount is delivered to the patient. Similarly, ventilators move a mixture of air and oxygen in and out of patients’ lungs to help them breathe. Airflow sensors, which measure air and oxygen flow, need to be easily calibrated to ensure the correct amount of oxygen is delivered. They should be able to be tuned or calibrated for precise flow rates.

Airflow sensors that offer a wide airflow range allow the designer to select a part that optimizes the overall performance of the application. A building-block approach can provide fine-tuned calibration in the software, so designers can modify the airflow range for each design. This is critical because respiratory equipment like a ventilator often uses multiple airflow sensors for different functions, which require specific airflow ranges and sensitivity.

Similar benefits can be realized for board-mount and stainless-steel media-isolated pressure sensors used in anesthesia equipment to measure the air and oxygen pressure. These sensors need to deliver high accuracy and stability to enable accurate readings over time and reduce errors. Ventilators also employ multiple low-pressure board-mount pressure sensors, which are used to measure air and oxygen pressure to and from the patient to ensure they don't exceed a set level. These sensors need to provide high stability and accuracy to ensure repeatable and reliable measurements every time to help improve patient safety.

Board-mount pressure sensors offer a range of packaging, mounting, power, and signal output options combined with customized calibration capabilities that can be implemented across product platforms, streamlining manufacturing and the supply chain.

Another important consideration is designing for global markets. Respiratory equipment designs can vary substantially from country to country. This translates into numerous packaging requirements for different regions of the world. A sensor should offer packaging options for both integrated manifold designs, often found in advanced regions, and legacy designs that incorporate lots of tubing and connections typically used in less-developed countries.

AJ Smith is director of product marketing at Honeywell Sensing and Control, where he is responsible for leading, managing, and directing all product-marketing-related activities within the pressure and thermal business. He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received his MBA from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus with specializations in finance, strategic management, and international business. He can be reached at [email protected].

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