Keith Cooper, Technology and Development, SET North America reports from ECTC 2010’s Medical Device Market Panel, offering a view beyond the packaging lab, into the progress and potential of the medical devices that will benefit from 3D integration technologies.

Keith CooperA discussion panel on medical devices opened this year’s Electronic Components and Technology Conference (ECTC) in Las Vegas. Chaired by Rolf Aschenbrenner of the Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin, panelists interacted on “The Emergence of the Medical Devices industry through the View-glass of Microelectronic Packaging Innovation”. Included on the panel were Prof. Dr. Herbert Reichl of the IZM, Jan Vardaman of TechSearch International, Dongkai Shangguan of Flextronics, Robert Hitchcock of the University of Utah and former VP of Sorensen Medical, and Bill Burdick of General Electric Global Research.

In contrast to the technical sessions of the ECTC, where researchers pore over minute details and describe various apparatus in living color, this panel discussion was formed to comment on the world beyond the packaging lab, where real people are impacted by the dreams and designs of technologists and marketers. It gave the audience the opportunity to hear various views on the progress and potential of medical devices, and to understand more about how collaborative innovation models may apply to other industries.

Professor Reichl launched the discussion by describing a worldwide medical electronics market of 142 Billion Euro in 2007, projected to grow at 6% CAGR, highlighting advances made by big hitters such as Johnson and Johnson, General Electric and Siemens. The Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin performed a great deal of groundwork for these devices, often with competing priorities such as broad functionality, miniaturization, robust design, long battery life, and moderate cost. He described how a TSV interposer used as a device carrier was an example of advanced packaging’s impact on this field, and concluded by defining the ultimate wish-list for devices: washability, wearability and biocompatibility. Just think of something as simple as a band-aid and you’ve got the idea.

Jan Vardaman continued the session by relating the World Health Organization’s projection on an aging global population. By the year 2025, the earth will contain 1.2 Billion people aged 62 or over. Growing fields in geriatric technologies include hearing aids, ultrasound devices, and defibrillators. Some of the more esoteric devices consist of retinal and spinal implants, plus ingestible event markers such as cardiac monitors. For some of these devices, packaging takes up 80% of the effort expended, creating enormous opportunities for packaging development and innovation. The future may even hold a type of “bionic age” where vision, mobility, and even limb replacements are brought to reality. Maybe Lee Majors as the “Six Million Dollar Man” was so far-fetched after all!

Dongkai Shangguan of Flextronics then addressed the topic of “Miniaturization Technology for Medical Electronics”, describing how the various methodologies of SoC, SiP, QFP, 3D and PoP have all contributed to this growing field. Within all of these specific methods, cross-cutting advancements in tighter spacing, die and substrate thinning, and materials joining have all contributed to the ultimate goal of “fully utilizing the entire 3-dimensional space within the product envelope.”

Bob Hitchcock batted in the clean-up position, speaking on “Medical Innovation through Application-based Technology.” He surveyed the range of medical devices available from the simple to the sophisticated, commenting that many are hybrid designs which necessitate clever designs to balance usability, cost and outcome. He noted that “winning products focus on real needs”, citing several examples from neural interface devices to infusion pumps to a glucometer bio-sensor. He then focused on Pelvic Floor Disorder, a common malady for which symptoms include incontinence; 25% of US women will require medical intervention for this in their lifetimes. MEMS-based pressure sensors are being implanted in vivo to sense pressure differentials to understand the detailed symptoms of this disorder, with very strong results even in preliminary tests. Hitchcock concluded by noting that simple solutions can be better, innovation can be accelerated through application-based packaging, and that opportunities are strongly related to real needs and actual outcomes.

Concluding the presentations was Bill Burdick whose presentation was entitled “Electronic Packaging Technology for High Performance Medical Imaging Systems.” He began by noting steady increases in all the following areas: awareness and demand, numbers of aged, management of chronic ailments, prediction and prevention, hospital-centric care, cost of imaging and pharmaceuticals, and health-care premiums. He observed poignantly the influence healthcare reform will have on technology. In his view, the US has up till now considered the best technology to yield the best business. However, post healthcare reform will move us to a place that holds that the best outcome yields the best business. He cited many trends in electronic packaging that are improving healthcare,including integrated packages such as SiP, SoC and PoP, the need for higher-order interconnects,and the demand for higher performance materials such as dielectrics, adhesives and underfills. Burdick closed his presentation by calling on the audience to address many existing gaps in interconnect technology, joining processes, low temperature assembly and MEMS packaging.

This panel of experts gave us a view of what we too often lose sight of: our day-to-day labors have an impact on real lives and quality of life issues. After all, why are we doing all this work if it’s not to change the world?

 

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