Originally Published MPMN
MD&M MIDWEST 2009: FIRST-TIME EXHIBITORS
Switch Maker Gets a Grip on User-Interface Controls
DeltaTech Controls provides switches, wireless and moveable-mount controls, and imaging displays.
Off-highway equipment, such as tractors, may not seem like it has anything in common with medical equipment. But the two industries have almost identical shock, vibration, and electromagnetic compatibility requirements for manufacturing controls, according to Matthew Via, key account manager for DeltaTech Controls (Shakopee, MN). Because of the similarities between the two industries, DeltaTech was able to transfer its skill set early on in order to branch into medical equipment component manufacturing. Specializing in user-interface components, the firm has been making switches and displays for medical products since 1992.
It initially provided custom switch panels and switch-integration services for large, complex products, and supplied switches for handheld devices. In recent years, however, the company has focused on providing magnetic and contactless technology for joysticks for such medical applications as wheelchair and advanced operating table controls. To meet customer demand, the company now also produces user-interface components for such digital imaging equipment as MRI, CT, and ultrasound systems. Moreover, DeltaTech is using its expertise to offer subassembly services and to supply components for patient-monitoring equipment.
Patient-monitoring equipment is becoming a source of growth for the company’s advanced display manufacturing capabilities. Because the cost of display technology has decreased and the processing power has increased to provide more functionality, both the size of the displays and the number of applications for them are increasing.
“Customers using 3-in. displays are now asking for 5- or 10-in. displays,” Via says. And, following the lead of the patient-monitoring equipment market, more imaging equipment makers are seeking to incorporate displays with machine controls, he adds.
While displays are getting larger, switch technology, like many aspects of medical devices, has continued to get smaller. More customers are asking for wireless user-interface controls or controlled-area network controls, which involve less wiring. These components give users more freedom of movement when using the products, Via says. “The growth in wireless is due to customers wanting to get interface controls closer to, or even on, the operator or surgeon themselves so that they and the machine can move to the patient, unencumbered by wires.”
To understand how best to design these products, the company spends a significant amount of time interviewing medical equipment operators and videotaping them in action, noting repetitive movements in particular. This research has made the company adept at integrating ergonomics early on in the engineering design of its customers’ products. In addition to the touch and feel of the user controls, the company also considers the curves and lines of the controls and how they fit in with the overall design of the equipment. “There’s a growing trend to maintain brand, color, and shape, and to make new devices look like part of a common product line,” Via notes.
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