To us, the question is less, “How is miniaturization impacting the development and design of medical technology?” and more its reverse. Medical design is increasingly impacting miniaturization. Testament to this, as a micron-scale process developer and manufacturer, we’re receiving more and more requests from biosensor and device designers looking to push the limits; circuits need to bend and carry added functionality, line traces and spaces are smaller and tighter. It challenges us to push our own boundaries and explore new approaches to new materials. As devices get smarter and faster, new markets and opportunities will continue to open.
New markets and opportunities
While wearables and the internet of things (IoT) are grabbing headlines everywhere, we’re most excited about the potential for growth in the biosensor market. Implantable bio sensing devices and diagnostic products are pushing the aforementioned limits; we’re ideally suited to serve those designers who crossover into the micron scale of things. All of these products require doing more in the tiniest of spaces.
Advanced materials have given designers options to create higher functioning devices that also meet their unique product requirements. Clear conductive films let you see through the product; biocompatible materials permit surfaces to go from barrier layer to active layer; new insulating materials are enabling electrical functionality; and materials with thermal management properties allow for reduction of cooling elements and increases in power.
Continuous reductions in size
Almost every designer is looking to either reduce the footprint of their finished device or increase its capability without increasing the footprint. This requires designers to integrate functionality into device geometry by reducing feature sizes and place more of them in a given area. This is often referred to as high density design. And it often requires a multi-layer approach.
Very frequently we are asked to provide input and feedback on specific design elements. This is extremely beneficial for all parties as it facilitates product design that is manufacture-able in both prototype and production volumes. As designers and engineers have more responsibility for overall product functionality, it’s often difficult for them to stay updated with current process and manufacturing capabilities. This issue is mitigated by having the manufacturer participate in the design review.
We’re pleased to be a leader in new manufacturing technologies and processes. While we’re constantly investing in the latest equipment, the truth is, it’s more our commitment to process development best practices and the material evolutions that have enabled a whole new generation of devices as of late.
Challenges to the future of miniaturization
The greatest challenge to miniaturization is manufacturing a product that is compatible with the next higher assembly process. Because miniaturization is always at the forefront of technology, it can be difficult to find hardware and define assembly processes that work with micron or submicron features. The next challenge will be for industry to offer micro components that are capable of high functionality and can take advantage of the features found on micron size circuits. For now however, medical device manufacturers need to understand the design rules at this scale. Sometimes, you can’t just make it smaller.
Learn what medical OEMs should know about ultra miniature fabrication in our recent blog post.