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Articles from 2020 In May

Medtech in a Minute: Philips Regulatory Win, Eko’s Telemedicine Play, and More

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay Medtech in a Minute: Philips Regulatory Win, Eko’s Telemedicine Play, and More

Philips Wins Regulatory Nod for Clinical Surveillance Biosensor

Philips won a nod from FDA and a CE mark for a next-generation wireless wearable biosensor to help monitor COVID-19 patients in hospital. The Amsterdam, Netherlands-based company touts its next-generation device as being able to enhance clinical surveillance in its patient deterioration detection solution to help clinicians detect risk so they can intervene earlier and help improve care in lower acuity care areas.

Eko Moves Deeper into Telemedicine in the Age of Social Distancing

The digital health company is launching a platform that will combine its cardiac monitoring technology with telehealth. The company said the platform incorporates its digital stethoscope and ECG live-streaming with embedded video conferencing and FDA-cleared algorithms for heart murmur and atrial fibrillation detection.

Will Emerging Contact Tracing Solutions Be Put to Work?
Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative launched by global health organization Vital Strategies, released a playbook that describes four essential actions governments need to take to reopen society quickly and safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quest Wins EUA for COVID-19 Self-Collection Kit

Quest Wins EUA for COVID-19 Self-Collection Kit

Quest Diagnostics has won emergency use authorization for a self-collection kit for COVID-19. The Secaucus, NJ-based company said its test is for individuals to self-collect a nasal specimen at home or in a healthcare setting when determined to be appropriate by a healthcare provider.

The self-collection kit allows an individual to swab the front part of the nostril and may be used on children (supervised by an adult) as well as adults. Specimens are shipped overnight via FedEx at room temperature (without a frozen cold pack).

Specimens collected using the kit may be tested with the Quest Diagnostics SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test that received an Emergency Use Authorization in March. RT-PCR testing aids in diagnosing infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing has been constrained partly by limited supplies of swabs and trained healthcare professionals to do the specimen collection," Steve Rusckowski, Chairman, CEO and President, said in a release. "The self-collection kit enables an individual to self-collect at home, and the process is far less invasive and uncomfortable than many traditional methods."

Quest won its first EUA for a COVID-19 test in early March. The company went on to begin performing antibody testing for COVID-19 using blood samples.

This move came as Quest announced it would furlough about 9% of its workforce.

Medtronic Issues Recall for HVAD Pump Outflow Graft

Medtronic is recalling its HeartWare HVAD pump outflow graft and outflow graft strain relief because of the risk of breaks and tears during the pre-implant pump assembly process. FDA has identified this as a Class I recall. The Dublin-based company said it has received 92 complaints.

The recalled products according to FDA’s release are:

HeartWare HVAD Pump Outflow Graft and Outflow Graft Strain Relief

  • Model Numbers:
    • HVAD Pump Outflow Graft: 1125
    • HVAD Pump Implant Kit: 1103
    • HVAD Implant Accessories Kit: 1153
  • Distribution Dates: March 1, 2018 to April 1, 2020

Medtronic said the use of the affected products may cause serious patient harm including dizziness, loss of consciousness, bleeding, fluid buildup around the heart, additional medical procedures, and death.

The HVAD System is used as a bridge to cardiac transplants in patients who are at risk of death from end-stage left ventricular heart failure, for heart tissue recovery, or as destination therapy (DT) in patients where new transplants are not planned.

The company inherited the HVAD technology when it acquired HeartWare International for $1.1 billion. The deal put Medtronic on more even footing with St. Jude Medical, which acquired HeartWare’s rival Thoratec, for $3.3 billion in 2015. (Editor’s Note: Abbott Laboratories would go on to acquire St. Jude Medical for $25 billion in 2017.)

This isn’t the first time there have been issues or recalls related to the HVAD technology. About two years ago, the company had a recall that included 204,017 of its devices. The issue stemmed from an interruption of the electrical connection between the device’s power source and the HVAD controller.

There were two significant recalls involving the HVAD just before after Medtronic acquired HeartWare in 2016.

One involved 8,799 HVAD controllers that were potentially damaged from exposure to moisture through loose power and data connectors. The other involved 350 unimplanted kits sitting in hospital inventory that were susceptible to electrical faults and connection failures from fluid entering the driveline-to-controller connector.

HeartWare had a major battery recall involving more than 18,000 HVAD batteries sold between 2013 and 2015, also prior to Medtronic buying the company.

Ford Revives the Jet-Age Mustang Mach I for 2021

Ford put an end to enthusiast speculation about the possible return of the storied “Mach I” nameplate to the Mustang lineup, confirming the model as a limited-edition, high-performance variant for 2021. The company describes it as employing the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 powerplant and being the “pinnacle of style and handling.”

So far, we have only camouflaged photos from the test track to support the style assertion. Chevrolet has enjoyed good success with its Corvette Grand Sport, a mid-priced version of their sports car fitted with the suspension and appearance parts from the Z06 performance model, but using the base Stingray’s iteration of the V8 engine.

Mach I could well follow that template, with upgraded Shelby GT350 suspension and brakes matched to the regular 460-horsepower Mustang GT 5.0-liter V8. “Mach 1 has a special place in Mustang history, and it’s time for this special edition to claim the top spot in our 5.0-liter V8 performance lineup and reward our most hardcore Mustang enthusiasts who demand that next level of power, precision and collectability,” said Dave Pericak, director, Ford Icons. “Like the original, the all-new Mustang Mach 1 will be true to its heritage, delivering great looks and as the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever.”

After teasing fans with a concept car in 1968, Ford debuted the Mach 1 as a production model in 1969 that provided a mid-level performance model slotted above the GT that was more affordable than the Shelby and Boss versions of the car. “Mach 1 has always been that bridge between base Mustangs and the Shelby models,” recalled Ted Ryan, heritage brand manager, Ford Archives. “From a style and handling perspective, the original Mach 1 managed to stand out as unique, even in the Mustang lineup – and as the name implies, it could really move.”

During the five-year 1974-’78 run of the Mustang II version, Mach I focused on upgraded handling. The car took a 25-year hiatus before returning for the 2003 and 2004 model years. Now, after a 17-year wait, Mach I returns for 2021. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach I prototype. Image source: Ford Motor Co.

Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.

Digital Twin Consortium Forms; Founder Speaks

Object Management Group has announced a new open-membership organization Digital Twin Consortium. The consortium’s goal is to develop and apply best practices and drive consistency in vocabulary, architecture, security, and interoperability in digital twin technologies. The focus will be on industries from aerospace to natural resources. “The Digital Twin Consortium will focus on infrastructure, resources, manufacturing, and health cares,” Richard Soley, executive director of the Digital Twin Consortium, told Design News.

Digital Twin Consortium

The Digital Twin Consortium will focus on best practices, encouraging open-source standards, and showing outside industries the value of digital twin technology. (Image Source: Digital Twin Consortium)

The original concept of the consortium was to present the digital twin concept in a horizontal perspective. Yet the number of sign-ups in the first few days of the announcement suggests the group can also take a vertical industries perspective. “In the first week, we signed up 55 members. With that number of members, I expect we can focus on vertical markets,” said Soley.

The Consortium’s Goals

Soley noted that the consortium will initially focus on the following:

  • Accelerate the market for digital twin technology by setting roadmaps and industry guidelines through an ecosystem of digital twin experts.
  • Improve interoperability of digital twin technologies by developing best practices for security, privacy and trustworthiness, and influencing the requirements for digital twin standards.
  • Reduce the risk of capital projects and demonstrate the value of digital twin technologies through peer use cases and the development of open source code.

Soley also envisions taking the concept of digital twins to industries that have not yet embraced the concept. ”Part of the idea of a consortium is learn how to use digital twins in markets that haven’t used them in the past, markets such as real estate or construction,” said Soley. “That requires standards. This consortium is not doing standards itself, but we’re going to push for standards organizations to create standards in open source.”

The Story Behind Digital Twin Technology

Digital twin technology was created to improve the products through the stages of design, manufacturing, and use in the field. The idea is to capture all aspects of the product in order to simulate performance design the manufacturing process, and then collect data from the field that may indicate a need for changes. Ultimately, the digital twin has the potential to bring increased efficiency to all of the stages while also improving the quality of the product.

The concept of a digital twin is not new. Soley pointed to the film Apollo 13 as an example. There is a scene when the ground control crew is desperately trying to solve the problem of carbon dioxide buildup in the lunar module. At one point a member of the crew dumps a bunch of items on the desk and says this is what they have to work with in the module. The is effectively a digital twin, albeit an analog version. “By using digital twin, they’re saving the lives of the astronauts,” said Soley.

Digital twin technology can be challenging to implement due to a lack of open-source software, interoperability issues, market confusion, and high costs. In order to ensure the success of Digital Twin Consortium, several leading companies involved in digital twin technology have joined the consortium prior to inception. This category of early innovators, called Groundbreakers, includes: Air Force Research Lab (US), Bentley Systems, Executive Development, Gafcon, Geminus.AI, Idun Real Estate Solutions AB, imec, IOTA Foundation, IoTIFY, Luno UAB, New South Wales Government, Ricardo, Willow Technology, and WSC Technology.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Friday Funny: Toy Engineer Tells the Story of GoldieBlox

Debbie Sterling is an engineer and founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company she designed to inspire the next generation of female engineers. She has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math. And she wants to begin with young kids. GoldieBlox is a book series+construction set that engages kids to build through the story of Goldie,

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

AI Predicts Battery Health

As the demand for next-generation batteries grows, scientists are turning to new techniques to aid in the design of safer and more reliable batteries before fabrication of them even begins.

Among them are researchers from the United Kingdom’s Cambridge and Newcastle Universities, who have designed a new machine-learning method that they said can predict battery health with 10 times more accuracy than the current industry standard.

consumer batteries, EV batteries, safety, energy-storage devices, battery health
Researchers have designed a machine learning method that can predict battery health to aid in the development of safer and more reliable batteries for electric vehicles and consumer electronics. (Image source: Cambridge and Newcastle Universities)

The method, which monitors batteries by sending electrical pulses into them and measuring the response, could be used to develop safer and more reliable batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and consumer electronics, said Alpha Lee from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, who co-led the research.

Indeed, one of the key issues with lithium-ion batteries commonly used in devices like mobile phones is that battery performance degrades over time for various reasons stemming from chemical processes. This continues to limit the widespread use of EVs, which also use lithium-ion batteries.

While individually, one of these chemical processes may not do enough damage to affect performance, combined they can limit a battery’s performance and shorten its lifespan, which is why researchers are seeking answers to the mysteries of battery degradation, Lee said.

"Safety and reliability are the most important design criteria as we develop batteries that can pack a lot of energy in a small space," he said in a press statement. "By improving the software that monitors charging and discharging, and using data-driven software to control the charging process, I believe we can power a big improvement in battery performance."

Add-On Battery-Monitoring System

Currently, battery health is predicted by tracking the current and voltage during battery charging and discharging. However, this type of monitoring does not take into consideration the process happening within the battery, which require new ways to measure batteries while they are in action—such as algorithms that can detect subtle signals as they are charged and discharged.

The method Lee and his colleagues developed combines a monitoring system of electrical pulses and machine learning. Researchers send electrical pulses into the battery to measure its response, then use a machine-learning model to pinpoint aspects of the electrical response that show that the battery is aging, said Yunwei Zhang, another researcher at the Cavendish Laboratory who also worked on the project.

"Machine learning complements and augments physical understanding," he said in a press statement. "The interpretable signals identified by our machine learning model are a starting point for future theoretical and experimental studies."

Researchers published a paper on their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The team performed more than 20,000 experimental measurements to train the model, which researchers said can learn how to distinguish important signals from mere noise. Moreover, the system can be used with existing batteries as an add-on rather to measure their health, they said.

Scientists are currently using the platform they designed to gain a better understanding of degradation in different battery chemistries. They also are continuing their work to develop new battery-charging protocols with the goal of developing future batteries that can charge faster and degrade less than current designs.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

New Energy Storage Tech Challenges Lithium Batteries but at What Cost?

Bill Gates is at it again. Through his investments in a group called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), Gates is exploring new ways to store renewable energy. While many innovative companies are creating ways to generate energy, BEV is focused on technologies that will allow enough energy storage to supply the major power-grids with clean energy even during windless days, cloudy weather, and nighttime.

One of the more promising ways to store energy is through the creation of long-duration storage systems. Short-duration devices like lithium-ion batteries are fine for laptops, mobile phones and electric cars. But cheaper and longer-duration systems are needed for the electrical power-grid.

A BEV-backed startup known as Form Energy is poised to meet that demand. The company has teamed up with Minnesota-based co-op Great River Energy to build a new battery that can discharge for 150 hours. Storage for this length of time is far better than conventional batteries and will help wind and solar energy sources to dominate the US energy landscape in a few years. So, how does it work?

Flow batteries are based on the chemistry that produces electricity when two specialized liquids flow next to each other, separated only by a thin membrane. Flow batteries are also known as reduction-oxidation (redox) flow batteries, due to the ionic exchange (accompanied by a flow of electric current) that occurs in the membrane as the fluids pass by one another.

To story energy in liquid form, the redox flow battery needs a positive and a negative chemical stored in separate tanks. The chemicals are pumped in and out of a chamber where they exchange ions across a membrane – flowing one way to charge and the other to discharge. The energy capacity of these redox batteries is a function of the electrolyte volume (amount of liquid electrolyte), while the power is a function of the surface area of the electrodes.

As an indication of the importance of this promising technology, last year Form Energy won a $3.7 million grant from the Energy Department’s cutting edge clean tech funding office, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Enery (ARPA-E). This grant was to develop a “long-duration energy storage system that takes advantage of the low cost and high abundance of sulfur in a water-based solution.”

One of the benefits of aqueous sulfur flow batteries is their lower chemical cost among other rechargeable batteries like lithium ion. Perhaps that’s why the energy portfolio of the Great River’s co-op is betting on the new tech to store energy from new wind farms over an option to build a massive coal power plant.

Ionic exchange creates current in flow batteries. (Image Source: Flow-Battery-Wikimedia)

While this storage technology is very promising, it faces one major hurtle, i.e. market domination by Lithium-ion batteries. Indeed, the falling price of Lithium-ion tech, thanks to factories like Tesla’s Gigafactory, presents a real problem to all long-duration technology like flow batteries, compressed air, torsional mechanical flywheels, and the like.

“Lithium-ion batteries sit in this enviable position of getting cheaper and cheaper,” explained Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Principal at NorthBridge Energy Partners, LLC, in a recent video blog. “So, what it does is to essential starve these competitive technologies like flow batteries where they just don’t have access to those markets.”

The economic challenge for companies like Form Energy is twofold: first, to use resources that are cheaper than lithium-ion and, second, to quickly build out a sales and market forces to access the available markets. If not, then it will be difficult to find enough opportunities for long duration storage, certainly in the short run, to enable scaling out of the technology, noted Kelly-Detwiler.

There is one interesting footnote on the potential cost of Form Energy’s storage tech. According to a study from Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, part of the University of Southern California (USC), a potential source for one of the chemicals required by redox flow batteries is iron sulfate, an abundant byproduct of the steel industry that currently goes for pennies per pound. The other chemical required for the redox process is anthraquinone disulfonic acid, which is not as cheap. Still, the USC research team estimates that increased production of flow batteries should lower the cost to well under a dollar per kilowatt hour.

Apparently, anthraquinone disulfonic acid can also be produced from animal feedstocks like cattle. This mean that an energy storage system based on a redox process might also help to reduce the energy’s carbon footprint. That has to count for something in our climate-change challenged world.

How the redox flow battery works. (Image Source: USC-Flow-Battery)


John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

StackTeck Responds to Urgent Request for Face Shields

StackTeck Responds to Urgent Request for Face Shields

During the coronavirus pandemic, StackTeck Systems, a designer and builder of high-productivity injection mold tooling, has been responding to demand for medical products. In one case, the company delivered a stack mold in just three and a half weeks to Novolex, a manufacturer of diverse packaging and food service products.

Face shield
Challenged by Novolex to build a mold for a face shield headband in four weeks, StackTeck delivered a production stack mold with a full hot-runner system and produced samples three and a half weeks after the start of the project. Image courtesy StackTeck Systems.

“We were challenged by Novolex to build a Class 1 high-performance stack mold in just four weeks to meet the demand to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Vince Travaglini, StackTeck CEO. “This project included complete mold design, manufactured molding surface components, assembly, and mold qualification. We were able to produce samples molded with customer resin and colorant to final product specification, and we were proud to deliver even faster than requested.”

To accomplish this, StackTeck leveraged all the advantages of hot runner and stack mold frame technology to achieve high levels of productivity. In response to the urgent demand for medical parts needed in record time, StackTeck delivered a production stack mold with a full hot-runner system for a face shield headband, producing samples within three and a half weeks of the project start.

“StackTeck truly delivered for us in the incredibly short timeframe we required to make the injection molds needed to produce face shields for healthcare and other frontline workers,” said Ken Meyers, Vice President of Operations for WNA, a Novolex company. “We’ve worked with and depended on StackTeck technology for many years and our trust in their know-how was renewed yet again on this emergency project.”

Lou DiMaulo, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing at StackTeck, also commented on the challenge that required the company to push to the limits and get it done. “We have a really dedicated team here, and I knew that nobody would back away from getting this done as fast as it could be,” he said. “Everybody had to get creative and work together to make it happen. In the end it was very satisfying for the whole team to see the results, and to know we delivered early to a customer who is providing such essential PPE for the people on the front lines.”