It’s been estimated that global medical electronics market will see a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.5% from the year 2018 to 2023 due to the gradual increasing of health expenditure, aging of population and increasing necessity of treatment for chronic disease. PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) play a core role in contributing to medical devices’ function implementation of medical devices, mostly depending on reliability and traceability of medical PCB fabrication and assembly.
Applications of Medical PCBs
Medical device applications that medical PCBs work for are mainly classified into three categories based on application aim: for diagnosis, for monitoring and for treatment.
•Medical PCBs for Diagnosis
Diagnostic medical equipment assists clinicians in measuring and displaying items reflecting patients’ healthcare situation so that a scientific and reliable diagnosis will be obtained. Diagnostic result acts as a potential reference based on which treatment regimen can be provided by clinicians.
Medical PCBs work in the following medical equipment: electronic stethoscopes to deal with heart disease, pneumonia, bronchitis etc., electronic sphygmomanometers to deal with diabetes, high or low blood pressure, artery hardening etc., ophthalmoscopes to deal with glaucoma, detached retinas etc., otoscopes, electrocardiograph, and thermometers.
•Medical PCBs for Monitoring
Medical devices for monitoring are used to inspect real-time situation of patients such as blood glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, exercise load etc. Monitoring devices are capable of recording and analyzing patients’ healthcare owing to a series of sensors or connectors assembled on bare PCB.
•Medical PCBs for Treatment
Medical applications for treatment cover the essential functions of medical PCBs, to make patients cure. Now, an increasingly high number of robots are being used in minimally invasive surgery to overcome inconvenience, calling for higher requirement on reliability and performance of medical PCBs.
Demanding Requirement for Medical PCBs
•Size Requirement for Medical PCBs
The obvious feature of PCBs for medical applications lies in the small size since they need to go through blood vessel or enter human organs to carry out inspections or surgery. Therefore, micro PCBs have become a main trend for medical PCBs owing to their small size and high performance.
•Technology Requirement for Medical PCBs
Fabrication technology requirement for medical PCBs derives from the necessity to go for high reliability and accuracy of medical devices, such as line width, spacing, copper thickness, laser drilling aperture, blind/buried via, via in pad etc.
•Material Requirement for Medical PCBs
Human body is such a complicated system that any device to enter interior body needs to be freely flexible. Thus, flexible PCBs and flex-rigid PCBs are quite often used for medical applications due to flexibility feature of their substrate material.
Future Development Trend of Medical PCBs
Wearable devices mostly depend on the applications of flexible PCBs owing to their small size, foldable irregular shape and light weight. To further implement advanced functions, flex-rigid PCBs are gradually used for medical wearables with the highest layer count 20 layers.
Micro PCBs are used for medical applications largely owing to small size. The line width and spacing of micro PCB usually should be less than 25μm; copper thickness should be 20μm; laser drilling aperture should be approximately 35μm; micro PCBs should feature blind/buried vias and via in pad. All of the above requirement contributes to tremendous performance of medical devices.
As a type of additive manufacturing technology, 3D printing has won tremendous effect in medical field. 3D printing has been used to create vascular tissue, low-cost prosthesis, proprietary, patient plaster, bone substitute etc. As 3D printing is applied in PCB fabrication, 3D circuits will definitely become a disruptive technology.
Along with the consistent progress in terms of printing technology and substrate performance, the potential value of medical electronics will surely push forward a new generation of improvement on newer, more complex and more highly-functional medical devices.