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Connectors boost medical systems

Posted: 30 Aug 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:connectors? medical-grade interconnects? microconnector?

Like any other electronic component used in the medical industry, connectors and cable assemblies must meet stringent requirements in order to survive extremely harsh environments, in some instances. A key concern with medical-grade interconnects is reliability.

As medical OEMs increasingly rely on electronics to deliver higher functionality, they also expect the connectors and cable assemblies to meet the harsher operating conditions and higher reliability requirements demanded in medical applications. These requirements include greater durability, higher mating cycles, quick and easy mating, and higher operating temperatures. Some also have to withstand autoclave sterilization processes.

To help ensure that connector manufacturers meet those expectations, the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) launched its Medical Components Reliability Specifications Project late last year to develop a minimum set of requirements for testing and use of electronic components, such as connectors in medical applications. The outcome for medical OEMs is that they will be guaranteed quality, reliability and consistency, according to iNEMI.

Despite the lack of standardized testing today for electronic components employed in medical products, manufacturers are delivering connectors that meet the most demanding requirements of the medical industry.

New parts
Some new products in the area of circular medical connectors include offerings from Tyco Electronics and Hypertronics.

Tyco's line of circular plastic connectors (CPC) is designed for implementation in surgical instruments, RF and ultrasound ablation and electronic patient monitors used in operating rooms. Some of its key features include its ergonomic push-pull mating and robust self-latching mechanism. In addition, the Tyco connectors offer a mating force of 2.5lbs and unmating force of 1lb and deliver a mating cycle rating of up to 2,500 cycles.

The Hypertronics HyperGrip plastic circular connector line is user-configurable. The company expanded the line with several new configurations earlier this year for 20-, 34- and 85-pin position versions. What makes this connector easy to use in medical applications is that it's color-coded and customer-keyable for quick connections on medical equipment. It also offers six keying options for lower cost and shorter deliveries.

Hypertronics also developed a rugged microconnector for high-reliability connections that touts 100,000 cycles. As you would suspect, this connector is also used in military, aerospace and industrial applications, as well as in medical applications.

The HyperGrid connectors can accommodate 2.5A of current, maintain DC resistance of less than 50m across nodes and keep contact self-inductance to 0.5nH. Those connectors target multi-GHz RF applications that must withstand shock and vibration.

Surviving high temperatures
For high-temperature applications, including medical equipment, Sullins Electronics has introduced a bi-level edgecard connector. With beryllium-copper pins and PPS/PA9T insulators, those connectors meet the requirements for operating in the temperature range of -65 C to 150C. The Sullins' connectors are also available with phosphor-bronze pins and PPS/PA9T insulators to meet an operating temperature range of -65C to 125C.

Just like connectors, cable assemblies also need to meet high-reliability requirements. One recent introduction in that arena comes from Molex Inc. The connector maker recently expanded its optical Circular MT cable assembly line to meet increased performance demands mandated by a number of industries, including telecommunications, military and medical.

With their metal housing and stainless steel push/twist locking ring, the Molex Circular MT cable assemblies are said to offer a more robust MT ferrule-based interface, compared with traditional ribbon-based optical connectors.

Durable and lightweight
W.L. Gore & Associates also has released a ruggedized medical cable. This one is tough. The Internally Ruggedized Medical Cable is said to provide excellent durability while remaining lightweight and flexible, and the part can be used in applications where caster rollover, floor contact or cable torque is present.

This cable offers improved crush, torque and kink resistance, which extends cable life and reliability in medical applications such as video endoscopy and powered surgical procedures. It is designed to ensure reliable video images and consistent electrical performance where it is most critical. The cable also can be used for surgical hand pieces, foot switches or more general-powered surgical instruments.

Gore also offers online design capabilities for configuring medical cables called the Medical Cable On-Demand Tool. The guide or configuration process enables the designer to build a cable, using step-by-step instructions for configuration and then submit an RFQ.

- Gina Roos
EE Times

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