Micro Fabricated Medical Devices
The health care industry is going through a radical transition, characterized by the fact that micro-fabricated devices are moving towards the front-end of medical equipment, devices and instruments. In these systems they are the interface between the human body - or more in general, living cells and tissue - and the machine, and as such they determine to a large extend the quality of the total system. They play an increasing role in all phases of the continuum of care and as such their application will result in improved medical care and reduced healthcare cost.
Preparing for future markets and products
Micro fabricated medical devices will play an increasingly important role in traditional medical equipment and will enable and stimulate emerging and entirely new markets. In traditional medical equipment such as ultra-sound, CT and PET, micro fabricated devices will help to increase performance and reduce cost. In this way they will be instrumental in securing Europe's multi billion business in diagnostic equipment. An example is the replacement of traditional piezo-ceramic ultra-sound transducers by MEMS CMUT/PMUT devices. A striking example of emerging devices is smart minimal invasive surgical instruments such as smart catheters and laparoscopic instruments. Micro-fabricated devices will add "eyes and ears" to the tip of these instruments, resulting in safer, shorter procedures at a reduced cost. Beyond emerging devices completely new categories of medical devices are being developed by researchers. These devices move even closer to the human body or tissue. Examples are electroceuticals, small implantable devices that directly stimulate the vagus nerve to treat high blood pressure, obesities, heart rhythm disorders etc., smart body patches that monitor vital body functions are administer drugs, or "organs-on-chip" in which the smallest functional elements of organs are recreated to develop better and safer medicines.
In comparison to standard CMOS or traditional MEMS devices such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, these micro-fabricated medical devices typically require for their fabrication a broad assortment of different technologies such as micro-fluidics, advanced assembly and molding, and the processing of new materials such as polymers and even proteins. Especially the processing of polymers and organic materials is becoming increasingly important since these materials form a better and more natural interface with living cells and tissue. On top of this the fabrication will need to done in a qualified and strictly controlled environment. It is unrealistic and even unwanted to concentrate all these capabilities in a single manufacturing site. Instead manufacturing networks will be necessary to bring together all the necessary steps for innovative new products. This is a rather new approach in an otherwise very competitive industry. The InForMed project takes the first steps in this direction by uniting key European players in the field with the idea to learn from each other and define protocols for the transfer of products and technologies from one manufacturing site to the other.
The pilot line
The pilot line consists of three micro-fabrication facilities , which are all part of Philips Innovations Services Eindhoven the Netherlands. The micro-fabrication facility is a 2600 m2 class 100-10000 facility specialized in processing in its broadest sense. The cleanroom is unique in that it combines an almost complete freedom in material choice with some of the best processing equipment available. The 3500 m2 Greenhouse assembly facility supports customers with the realization of new ideas and to help bridge the gap from idea to production for printed circuit boards and advanced micro-assembly. The third part of the pilot line comprises a 200 m2 workshop for the fabrication of smart-catheter prototypes. The workshop is especially equipped for the processing of optical fibers that often form the heart of these smart catheters. In the InForMed project the pilot line infrastructure will be qualified for the production of medical devices. The facilities are open to third party users on a normal commercial base.
Demonstrating the pilot line
In the InForMed project no less than six demonstrators have been defined. The purpose of the demonstrators in the InForMed project is twofold: first of all each demonstrator represents an innovative medical micro-fabricated device enabling new opportunities in the areas of hospital, heuristic and home care. Secondly, the demonstrators play an important role in bringing together complementary competences of a large variety of partners with the purpose to form long lasting working relations resulting manufacturing networks. All demonstrators have a concrete product to be demonstrated at the end of the project, but they also include one or more exploratory routes to feed the innovation funnel.
More information on the pilot line: http://www.innovationservices.philips.com/looking-expertise/mems-devices-micro-assembly