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Articles from 2003 In March


One Giant Leap: Medical Informatics in the Space Age

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

EDITOR'S PAGE

One Giant Leap: Medical Informatics in the Space Age

Since the recent tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia, the very existence of the space program has come into question. Some wonder about the usefulness of sending humans into space. Are the benefits derived from manned missons worth the inherent risks of space flight?

I believe they are. The scientific knowledge gained from space exploration is invaluable. But most important to the medical device industry are the technologies being developed to assist astronauts while they are traveling the cosmos. NASA says it foresees missions that will take humans for longer lengths of time to ever-greater distances from Earth. Medical technology must be portable enough to travel with the crew wherever they go. These technologies will have applications here on Earth, enabling more medical care to be delivered at remote facilities.

"Again the needs of our space program will fuel a revolution in healthcare," states the Medical Informatics and Technology Applications Consortium (MITAC) on its Web site. The same type of telemetry devices that can tell Mission Control what is happening aboard the space shuttle will allow physicians to treat and diagnose patients almost anywhere on this planet. NASA is playing a leading role in the development of much of this technology, including telemetry, telemedicine, and material science.

This is a welcome development for the medical device industry. Technologies such as videoconferencing, the Internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and satellite and wireless communications already exist. However, they are not yet fully implemented in the U.S. healthcare industry.

Healthcare lags behind other industries such as finance, insurance, and education, says the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth at the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These markets have already integrated information systems into their routines. Healthcare could be at least 10 to 15 years behind these other sectors in computing, says the agency.

Fortunately, that's changing. According to MITAC, as information systems and sensor technology continue to evolve, integration into medical devices for diagnosis and treatment will become commonplace. The consortium is working with its partners to further develop sensors and transmitters that can be used to obtain medical information and distribute it to aid in diagnosis and treatment. They are also supporting efforts to develop effectors and process simulators, which can be integrated into both diagnosis and treatment.

Incorporating new information-sharing technologies into medical devices will have untold benefits. People living in rural areas will have access to sophisticated treatments and diagnoses. Those with ongoing conditions such as diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others, can be monitored and perhaps even treated from the comfort of their own homes. Implementing informatics into the healthcare system will truly be a giant leap for mankind.

Susan Wallace, Managing Editor

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Tool Setting at the Speed of Light

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

PROFILE

Tool Setting at the Speed of Light

Noncontact laser unit slashes setup times

Zachary Turke

Assembled by Howmedica Osteonics, this flexible manufacturing cell reduced average job preparation from 2 hours to 5 minutes.
(click to enlarge)

For many manufacturing operations, efficiently performing tool setup is critical for maintaining profitability. After examining its machine shop, Howmedica Osteonics (Rutherford, NJ; www. howost.com) found that it was no exception. The company uses roughly 1000 different tools to construct 4000 replacement hip joint components and saw that manual changeovers between jobs was hurting the bottom line. "It was readily evident that long setup times were killing throughput of our short-run jobs and rapidly increasing back orders," says manufacturing engineer Bob Mykytka. To overcome this problem, Mykytka constructed a flexible manufacturing cell that included a noncontact laser tool setter from Renishaw Inc. (Hoffman Estates, IL; www.renishaw.com).

"We wanted something similar to the flexible manufacturing cells used in the automotive industry, but that was obviously beyond our budget," he says. Undaunted, Mykytka set about building his own version of this expensive equipment.

The first step fell into place when he found a tooling pallet system in his company's storage room. This unit allowed quick pallet changeovers between jobs and provided a positioning repeatability of ±0.002 in. But he still needed a way to automate the tool-setting procedure, and for that, he turned to Renishaw's NC1 noncontact laser tool setter. "We were familiar with Renishaw's name and reputation for product support, so we purchased one for testing," explains Mykytka.

Originally designed for in-cycle broken tool detection, the NC1 tool setter also allows the setting of both tool length and diameter at normal spindle-cutting speeds. The component can measure tools anywhere along its 2-m laser beam, eliminating unnecessary movement and minimizing setup times. Evaluating utensils as small as 0.2 mm with a resolution of 1 µm, the component works by sending a visible beam across the tool path. System electronics detect when a tool breaks the beam, sending a signal to the machine's control system to instantly establish the position of tips, teeth, or cutting edges.

Part of the cell, the NC1 noncontact tool setter allows the setting of both tool length and diameter at normal cutting speeds.
(click to enlarge)

After installing the NC1 setter on the pallet system, Mykytka tested the new system to positive results. Standard job preparation time was reduced from 2 hours to 5 minutes, he estimates, a time savings that enabled the processing of $1 million worth of backlogged inventory. And though he had some initial concern over the NC1's ability to function in a harsh machining environment, he says that these fears were proven groundless by a continuous stream of air that flows through special apertures in the unit to protect its optics. "The NC1 tool setter is simple and reliable, right at home in the belly of a machine tool surrounded with coolant and metal chips," he says.

The company management was so pleased with the results that they made the system the standard equipment for manufacturing all but three of the department's 4000 jobs. They also ordered a similar setup for the company's femoral knee department. Here, the NC1 tool setter will be mounted on a robotic drill and used not only for tool setup, but also for broken tool detection. "If a drill breaks during a drill-and-tap routine and the machine continues, all the tools after the drill would also break," explains Mykytka. "A quick check with the NC1 between cutting routines will ensure that this does not occur," he says.

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

My Favorite Bookmarks

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

E-NEWS

My Favorite Bookmarks

Valery Telfort
Electrical Engineer
Andromed Inc.

Zachary Turke

NEC Research Institute (http://citeseer.nj.nec.com) is a great resource for finding research papers. When I used to search for a specific paper, I would have to go to several different sites and oftentimes none of them would be able to find it. With this page, you just type in the author you're looking for and it uses an algorithm to search for him or her in a variety of digital libraries. When the paper you're looking for has been located, you can view it in a Word or PDF format.

The Electronics Industry Knowledge Network (www.e-insite.net) is a clearinghouse of engineering information. The site contains up-to-date news and technical resources, but what I really go there for are the news groups. A forum of engineers with various experiences, these communities are a good place to throw out questions you have about design problems and get unbiased feedback from people who have dealt with similar challenges.

Portable Design (http://pd.pennnet.com) provides information for people who design portable electronic devices. My company does a lot of work in this field, and this site is a good resource for things like power consumption information and design tips for battery packs. One of the page's best features is the occasional article that breaks down a portable device into the individual steps required to develop it.

National Instruments (www.ni.com) supplies computer-based measurement and automation technologies. There are a lot of companies on the Web that do this, but what makes this one unique is its technical support section. If you have a question about a product, you can just type it in using an on-line form. After you enter this information, the form is sent to a customer service representative and you are given his or her contact phone number. That way when you call, the representative is already familiar with your problem and ready to help. It's a real time-saver.

Andromed Inc. (Saint-Laurent, QC, Canada; www.andromed.com) designs and produces diagnostic and telemonitoring equipment for cardiac and pulmonary applications. The firm's product line includes the Stethos electronic stethoscope, androgenic switches, and photospirometers.

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Emerging Technologies

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

SPECIAL

Emerging Technologies

A survey of new products and processes that will affect medical device design

Motors supplier lends hand in development of next-generation prosthetic

When Motion Control Inc. (Salt Lake City; www.utaharm.com) began the design phase of its next-generation prosthetic devices, a key goal was to resolve some specific problems articulated by users of its products in the past. A better understanding of user needs and the integration of advanced-technology components led to substantial improvements in its motion-controlled wrist and hand prosthetics.

For example, users had complained about the hand experiencing a "lockdown" under certain circumstances. If the hand lost power for any reason while gripping a door or shopping-cart handle, it would clamp down, making it very difficult to release the grip safely. In the new design, Motion Control integrated a mechanical safety release that allows the user to manually release the drive mechanism and passively open the hand.

A graphite-brushed motor from Maxon Precision Motors powers wrist and hand prosthetics.

Because the hand operates on a variety of input voltages and requires rapid response times and high pinch forces, sourcing a suitable motor was also a key concern for the manufacturer. After considering several alternatives, the company chose a graphite-brushed motor from Maxon Precision Motors (Burlingame, CA; www. maxonmotorusa.com).

The prosthetic is designed for use with input voltages ranging from 6 to 18 V to accommodate various types of battery packs and to satisfy the product's speed and torque requirements. Graphite-brushed motors work efficiently within the specified voltage range, whereas competitive precious-metal-brushed motors are prone to burn out, according to Maxon. Other benefits of the motor include its light weight, compact dimensions, and quiet operation.

The motor is also instrumental in producing a rapid response rate in the hand without sacrificing pinch force. Traditional electric-motor gear trains sacrifice speed for torque, or vice versa. Motion Control uses an automatic mechanical two-speed transmission that senses a change in torque when the hand comes in contact with an object, and shifts gear ratios to achieve a high pinch force. When the object is released, the transmission automatically shifts up to a faster gear ratio. The use of a two-speed transmission, special gearing, and belt drive enables the hand to easily open and close.

The RE 16 motor from Maxon is mounted perpendicular to the axis of the forearm. The off-the-shelf component features no-load speeds greater than 14,000 rpm, stall torque up to 31 mN*m, and continuous torque exceeding 5 mN*m.

More:
High-power piezoelectric material may allow novel MIS procedures
Piezoelectric motor has four legs up on competition
PC cards turn computers into portable laboratories
Amorphous metal combines high strength with ease of processing
Advances in power sources improve the lifetimes of implantable devices
Technology may enable the development of tests for mad cow disease

Norbert Sparrow, Susan Wallace, and Zachary Turke

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Nook Industries Offers Downloadable CAD Drawings

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

E-NEWS

Nook Industries Offers Downloadable CAD Drawings

Zachary Turke

www.nookindustries.com
(click to enlarge)

A new e-catalog from Nook Industries (Cleveland) allows users to download, configure, and view 2-D and 3-D drawings of the company's jacks using their own CAD software. "This is an exciting technological approach that allows engineers to easily integrate Nook components into their own design within minutes of configuration," says vice president of sales and marketing Christopher Nook. "It speeds up the design process, which in the end saves money," he adds.

Users must register with the site to download CAD files. Once registered, they can configure a jack by specifying a motor adapter, right-angle reducer, bellows boots, and limit switch accessories. After configuration, complete CAD drawings of the assemblies are generated and can be viewed with zoom, pan, and rotate capabilities. The drawings are compatible with AutoCAD, Pro/Engineer, Catia, Solid Works, CADKey 3D, Solid Edge, Vellum Draft, Autodesk Inventor, and Mechanical Desktop software.

Currently, CAD downloads are only available for the company's ActionJac line of worm-gear screw jacks, but the company hopes to expand the catalog to include ActionJac electric cylinders and additional products in the first quarter of this year.

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

High-power piezoelectric material may allow novel MIS procedures

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

SPECIAL

High-power piezoelectric material may allow novel MIS procedures
Piezoelectric arrays from Piezo Technologies fold into cylinders with diameters as small as 8 mm.

An advanced piezoelectric material being developed by Piezo Technologies (Indianapolis; www.piezotechnologies.com) may soon allow physicians to treat a variety of new maladies using minimally invasive techniques. Suited for generating and focusing high-intensity ultrasound waves, this material will be formed into collapsible arrays for insertion using transarterial catheters, laparoscopes, and transesophageal devices. Once inserted inside the body, the arrays unfold and can ablate diseased tissues or provide real-time imaging data for treating Barrett's esophagus, liver tumors, cardiac arrhythmia, and pancreatic, liver, and bladder cancer.

While similar devices have already found use on larger transrectal catheters, the piezoelectric arrays being developed by Piezo Technologies are unique because they generate a greater power output per unit of area. "The devices used for minimally invasive surgery do the same job as traditional devices, so they have the same power requirements," explains chief technology officer Mike Phillips. "But since they're smaller, they have to generate more power per square millimeter to attain an equivalent output. Our arrays fold into cylinders with diameters as small as 8 mm, so the material they're made from needs to be four to five times as powerful as the state-of-the-art piezoelectric materials currently on the market," he adds.

Piezo Technologies hopes to commercialize the first of these piezoelectric arrays within 3 years. To help them to achieve this goal, the company has received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Gaithersburg, MD; www.nist.gov). Awarded for the maximum amount, this grant is intended to fund high-risk research and development projects that promise significant commercial payback and widespread national benefits. Other possible uses for the material include sensors, actuators, and other industrial products.

Norbert Sparrow, Susan Wallace, and Zachary Turke

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Selector Tool Simplifies Heat Exchanger Specification

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

E-NEWS

Selector Tool Simplifies Heat Exchanger Specification

Zachary Turke

www.lytron.com
(click to enlarge)

Hosted at www.lytron.com, a selector tool simplifies the specification of heat exchangers from Lytron Inc. (Woburn, MA). Asking a series of basic questions, the tool helps visitors locate the most appropriate copper or stainless-steel heat exchanger for their application. "We realized that some design engineers may prefer to size their own heat exchanger instead of relying on us to do it, so this tool is now available on our Web site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help them do so," explains president Charlie Carswell.

To use the tool, an engineer simply inputs figures for cooling fluid, heat load, flow rate, and hot- and cold-side temperature when prompted. If the heat load is not known, the selector can calculate it. Help texts are also provided to explain unfamiliar terms. When all parameters have been entered, the tool selects up to three heat exchangers that are compatible with the given application. A graph showing the recommended exchangers' performance against the required performance is also generated. Finally, the program provides a printable price quote to use when placing an order.

The company's Web site also contains a technical support section as well as application notes, product selection information, and technical reference data.

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Piezoelectric motor has four legs up on competition

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

SPECIAL

Piezoelectric motor has four legs up on competition
The Piezo Legs motor operates without gears or a mechanical transmission.

A piezoelectric micromotor that combines power, nanoscale resolution, and speed in a compact package also boasts a simple, robust design. It is a cost-effective alternative to conventional electromagnetic linear motion systems, according to Peo Sollerud, marketing manager at PiezoMotor Uppsala AB (Uppsala, Sweden; www.piezomotor.com). Pump systems used in insulin delivery and anaesthetic devices would also benefit.

Constructed in a single piece with four movable appendages, the Piezo Legs motor operates without gears or a mechanical transmission. Applying voltage to the motor sets in motion a synchronized forward or backward movement of each pair of legs, allowing the motor to "walk up to several centimeters per second, with a resolution down to 10 nanometers," says Sollerud. "It can lift up to 1000 times its weight and attains 8 N of pulling force without the use of drive screws, gears, or other mechanical subassemblies," he adds.

The motor's motion mechanism is composed of thin piezoceramic layers sandwiched between conductive materials. More than 100 layers can be stacked on top of one another, allowing the motor to run exclusively on battery power. Movement is fine tuned, and each leg is fitted with a wear-resistant sole.

Because of the motor's small size and backlash-free operation, "we see micromanipulation in surgical and laboratory instruments as a field of application," says company CEO Per Oskar Lithell. The firm has a number of medical-related projects in the works, adds Lithell, but nondisclosure agreements prevent him from providing any details.

Company engineers focused on keeping the design simple when developing the motor to enable its production in large quantities without sacrificing precision. The motor's properties and performance specifications can be easily adapted to suit an array of applications. The firm has the expertise to manage the complete development process of a motor or motion control system, or customers can simply purchase motors built to their specifications.

Norbert Sparrow, Susan Wallace, and Zachary Turke

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

Rotational Axes Enable High-Speed Machining

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

EQUIPMENT NEWS: Metal Fabrication

Rotational Axes Enable High-Speed Machining
The HSM 4000 from Mikron Bostomatic uses linear motion technology to achieve high speeds.

A redesign of the rotational axes on a machining center makes possible simultaneous five-axis machining in a truly high-speed mode. The HSM 400U from Mikron Bostomatic uses linear motor technology on its rotary axes to achieve speeds up to 25 times that of conventional rotary tables. Speeds up to 250 rpm are possible on the rotation axis and up to 150 rpm on the swivel axis, with a swivel range of ±110°.

A concrete polymer base provides rigidity, vibration dampening, and high thermal stability. Spindle motors are liquid cooled with hybrid ceramic ball bearings to achieve speeds of 30,000, 42,000, or 60,000 rpm.

Designed for automation, the unit is suitable for wet or dry machining and particularly for milling graphite electrodes. A standard workpiece changer is integrated, enabling around-the-clock unmanned operation.

A Heidenhain control system offers features such as 3-D graphics, high-speed functions, 3-D cutter compensation, a 1.5-Gbyte hard drive, and Ethernet interface.

Mikron Bostomatic Corp., 150 Hopping Brook Rd., Holliston, MA 01746.


Electric Servo Presses Facilitate Assembly

A Windows-based control system operates up to six axes on servo presses from Schmidt Feintechnik Corp.

Three programmable servo presses are equipped with electric motor–driven square rams. The presses have 100% in-process monitoring and statistical process control data acquisition to calculate Cpk and other critical indexes. All models are available from Schmidt Feintechnik Corp. as modular units or stand-alone work cells with capacities from 1 oz to 11,000 lb of continuous force. A Windows-based control system operates up to six CNC axes such as robots, x-y positioning systems, and five additional press stations.

Schmidt Feintechnik Corp., 280 Executive Dr., Cranberry Township, PA 16066-6415.


Machining Center Produces Molds and Dies

A high-speed CNC machining center is suitable for industrial strength high-end engraving. The M9 from Datron Dynamics Inc. comes equipped with a 60,000-rpm spindle that provides ample speed for the small engraving tools that are required in contemporary engraving applications. An automatic tool changer enables parts to be produced with the correct tools for the job. Designed for high-speed machining with intricate tools, the unit is compatible with standard carbide engraving tools.

The M9 machines brass, copper, magnesium, aluminum, steel, and stainless steel. The machine is based on a cast-steel frame and has asynchronous vibration dampening. The unit comes with a Pentium-based PC operating system that uses canned cycles with an intuitive control that uses look-ahead buffers. Modular postprocessors enable seamless interfacing with 3-D engraving and mold-making software packages.

Datron Dynamics, 454 Rte. 13, Milford, NH 03055.


Press Extends Capabilities and Tooling Options for Part Production

A hydraulic press from Feintool Fineblanking Equipment features high force and speed capabilities.

A hydraulic fineblanking and forming press features high blanking force and speed, a floorspace-saving hydraulic system, and a PC-based control system to maximize uptime and production while decreasing the unit cost of complex metal parts. The HLT-1250 from Feintool Fineblanking Equipment is a triple-acting fineblanking press. In addition to a cutting force of 4000 kN, it has two 500-kN pressure pads integrated into the press table or tool-change plate to allow more forming tools for bending, drawing, countersinking, and local extrusion. The press accepts compound and progressive tools, and its long bed permits use of simple modular tooling, which is economical and easy to maintain, according to the company.

The HLT-1250 provides ram opening or closing speed of 200 mm/sec, blanking speed to 80 mm/sec, and maximum stroke rate of 60 strokes per minute. For optimal process control at higher speeds, the press provides automated adjustment of feed height, strip width, and scrap chop.

A built-in control unit incorporates a diagnostic system that continuously monitors a battery of press sensors and position feedback devices, directing the operator to the source of any potential fault. It also tracks press working hours, prompts for scheduled preventive maintenance, and warns if data inputs exceed limit values.

The hydraulic system is located above the press ram to minimize floorspace requirements and eliminate the need for a special foundation. The system uses precision servovalve actuation for smooth acceleration and deceleration, while providing a selectable low-pressure setting for coining and special forming operations.

Feintool Fineblanking Equipment, 6833 Creek Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45242.


Modified Automatic Lathes Are Now Easier to Use

A pocket door allows easy access to the work area on DECO lathes from Tornos Technologies U.S. Corp.

A series of single-spindle automatic lathes from Tornos Technologies U.S. Corp., feature a left-to-right pocket door opening that allows easy access to the work area. In addition to the main door, there is a secondary window that opens just above the control unit for convenient access to the main spindle. The extra entryway facilitates collet and guide bushing changes. The coolant tank size has been enlarged to hold an additional 20 L. A new parts grabber was also designed with fewer moving parts, requiring less positioning adjustment.

The software has been enhanced, enabling faster program generation and data transfer to the machine. More automated functions are available, such as tool collision checking and a geometry help screen.

The DECO 20a and 26a models are offered with up to 12 independent axes that allow up to four tools to cut simultaneously. The 20a provides up to 10,000-rpm spindle speeds powered by a 5.5-kW motor. The 26a offers up 8000-rpm spindle speeds with a 7.5-kW motor.

Tornos Technologies U.S. Corp., 70 Pocono Rd., Brookfield, CT 06804


Laser Tube-Cutting Systems Offer Versatility

Offered by AltaMar Laser & Control, laser systems are capable of cutting metal tubes of various sizes.

Laser cutting systems provide good functionality and reliability. Available with PRC lasers to 3000 W, the LT1200 or LT2400 laser tube-cutting systems from AltaMar Laser & Control are capable of cutting mild steel, stainless steel, or aluminum of various sizes and wall thicknesses. Round or rectangular tubes can be processed. The LT1200 accommodates raw tubes to 12 ft and the LT2400 accepts tubes to 24 ft. A tube-length measurement system allows random tube lengths to be used. Optional automatic infeed and outfeed systems enable unattended operation. The controller is PC-based with a touch screen user interface. A programming tool with standard G and M codes is provided to generate programs for profiled ends and common internal features.

AltaMar Laser & Control, 452 Northco Dr., Ste. 170, Fridley, MN 55432.

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

PC cards turn computers into portable laboratories

Originally Published MPMN March 2003

SPECIAL

PC cards turn computers into portable laboratories
QRS Diagnostic has developed PC cards for spirometry, oximetry, cardiography, and the monitoring of blood pressure and other vital signs.

Developed by QRS Diagnostic (Minneapolis; www.qrsdiagnostic.com), PCMCIA cards that contain an integrated sensor can turn off-the-shelf desktop, laptop, and handheld computers into portable medical devices. "In the past, when an OEM wanted to build a spirometer, an oximeter, or other stand-alone medical device, it had to be designed from the ground up, including the user interface," explains chief technology officer Patrick Lichter. "Our cards allow any personal computer to serve as the interface. The only thing the manufacturer has to design is the component that actually collects the data," he adds.

Compatible with computers running Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP, and CE operating systems, the cards are designed to lower total device cost by as much as 50% and open new home-care and telemedicine markets. The components are supplied with software to manage data collection and allow hot swapping to simplify card changes. These features will allow end-users to offer a greater array of specialty diagnostic tests; they enable manufacturers to make readily upgradable and highly mobile devices.

So far, QRS Diagnostic has developed PC cards for spirometry, oximetry, cardiography, and blood pressure and vital signs monitoring. The company commercialized the first of these cards in 1998 under its own name, but will also license the technology for use by other firms. "As part of our OEM program, we supply the cards and a software developers kit," says Lichter. "That way developers can examine the hardware and integrate it into a program of their own design."

Highlighting the popularity of this OEM program, QRS Diagnostic has recently signed agreements with two device firms. As part of one of these agreements, Dolphin Medical Inc. (Hawthorne, CA; www.dolphinmedical.com) will market the Voyager card for real-time pulse oximetry. Compatible with any Compact Flash socket, this card is CE marked for use with Compaq's 3600-, 3700-, and 3800-series iPaq pocket computers. The other agreement, with Advanced Medical Electronics Corp. (Minneapolis; www.ame-corp.com), is aimed at developing wireless LAN- and Internet-connected devices.

Norbert Sparrow, Susan Wallace, and Zachary Turke

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News