When designing medical devices, connector performance is a critical part of the accuracy, durability, and safety of the end system. Here are five things you need to know about medical connector reliability.
When you think about medical connectors, the first thought that likely comes to mind is reliability. But what does this mean? Where do you start? Here are five things to know about medical connector reliability.
- Defined application and performance targets: Selecting an existing medical connector that is already on the market does not necessarily guarantee reliable performance. Just as each connector is different, so is each application. One key to medical connector reliability is to match the key parameters of the product to the components so that when they are all integrated they function at the desired level. Communication between the designer and the supplier is critical.
- Materials selection: For peak reliability, you need to look deeper than the size and shape of the connector; there are always hidden trade-offs. Connectors come in every configuration possible and then some, so dig into the base contact material, as this is the heart of the connector. For example, ask the manufacturer why they chose to use a slightly more expensive beryllium copper material over a slightly less expensive phosphor bronze.
- Other markets’ innovations: Just like the military, which has successfully employed COTS connectors in various designs, medical devices can leverage other industry’s developments. For example, automotive and industrial connectors today are expected to exhibit continuous high-reliability performance in harsh environments, and therefore may provide an alternative connector solution for a medical design. Often, identifying a unique off-the-shelf connector can provide a simple, reliable, and cost-effective solution.
- Product integration: This takes the first point to the next level. Connectors by themselves will always function; however, to ensure medical level reliability, you need to examine the manufacturing processes and determine how well the components will work together, as sometimes you will find that they actually work against each other. Additionally, medical devices are often sealed or enclosed, so materials and connector construction can have a significant impact on the performance and manufacturability of the product.
- Credibility and integrity: Work with well-established suppliers who are known for developing innovative technologies. Although there are undoubtedly trade-offs between price and performance, long-term relationships are critical to long-term success.
Tom Anderson, connector product manager for AVX, has been in the connector industry for more than 30 years and has held a variety of product marketing positions. For the last four years, he has focused on developing new connector technologies for the industrial, medical, and solid-state lighting markets. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.