Flex: Just What the Doctor Ordered for Medical Devices


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Medical devices represent one of the fastest growing electronic markets in the United States. The drive for reduced space and weight, added functionality, and reduced cost has driven the adoption of a wide array of custom flexible circuits. The design freedom offered by this three-dimensional interconnect supports the packaging design requirements for a myriad of diverse applications within the medical electronic market. The adoption of flexible circuitry in medical devices goes back to the early 1970s, when companies like Cardiac Pacemakers and Medtronic used flex circuitry for implantable pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. As electronics and packaging advanced, medical products enjoyed a tremendous growth both in the U.S. and overseas. This growth will most certainly continue as new and innovative products, with increasingly demanding electronic requirements, challenge product designers to add functionality within smaller and smarter devices. Today flexible circuits are found in many medical applications:

  • Implantable medical devices: These include pacemakers, defibrillators, neurological implants and cochlear implants (hearing). These devices are surgically implanted in the human body. Product requirements are extreme reliability, long life cycle, light weight, biocompatibility and compact size.
  • Non-implantable medical devices: Hearing aids, drug dispensing systems, and external defibrillators (attached to patient) are examples of this medical application. These  devices are generally worn or attached to the skin of the patient.
  • Monitoring devices: These products include portable and wearable electronics that monitor heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and blood sugar rate. Also included in this category are bedside monitoring devices.
  • Diagnostic equipment: This category includes equipment for ultrasound scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography scanning (CAT scan), X-rays and a variety of other types of equipment to aid in  detecting and diagnosing health problems.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.

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