All articles by Amit Thadani

Amit Thadani

Chips down

Since the pandemic, and arguably even before, journalists and politicians have been exercised by a growing shortage in semiconductors. That’s as true as anywhere in the medical device industry, with manufacturers warning that supply issues could soon impact production. But in the shadow of aggressive government plans to address the shortfall, is the scale of the global chip drought exaggerated? Andrea Valentino talks to Robert Lewis, a senior international consultant at Chance Bridge Partners, to explore the importance of chips to the global economy, what the US and other Western powers are doing to secure semiconductors in the years ahead – and whether leaving the whole system to the free market may be more sensible.

Bubbling to the surface

Researchers from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and School of Chemistry have revealed that tiny gas bubbles – nanobubbles just 100 billionths of a meter high – form on surfaces in unexpected situations, providing a new way to reduce drag in small-scale devices. Kim Thomas speaks to Professor Chiara Neto, who led the research, to find out how they made the discovery and what its implications are for the future of microfluidic devices.

Cosmic conditions

Space exploration has yielded many scientific developments over the years, with healthcare one of several areas that has benefited. Both NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) Laboratory recently signalled their desire to continue this trend by seeking new proposals to demonstrate the manufacture of biomaterials in microgravity. Mae Losasso speaks to Kevin Tabury, scientific researcher at SCK CEN, Professor Lorenzo Moroni, chair of the Complex Tissue Regeneration department and vice-director of MERLN, and Professor William Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to better understand what microgravity can offer.

Silk to touch

Nowadays, silk has a multitude of applications beyond the luxury clothing and other decorative products for which it’s famous, and that includes applications in the medical device sector. In order to create silk-based products, however, the natural substance is increasingly being combined with man-made polymers. Jim Banks looks at the latest research and asks Juan Guan of Beihang University how silk combines with other materials to enhance its natural properties, and what potential applications this might have in the clinic.

Kill on contact

A multidisciplinary research team from universities across Europe has developed a plasma-based technology that can manipulate the make-up of materials to either prevent bacteria from sticking to them or killing it instantly on contact. Elly Earls speaks to Anton Nikiforov to find out how the system differs from existing methods to create antibacterial surfaces, and how it could be applied in healthcare settings.

A side of chips

Advances in the science of microfluidics have led to a whole raft of novel devices. But due to considerations like complexity and cost, many of the teams behind the devices have been unable to produce them at scale. What are the major barriers to commercialisation, and what can be done to overcome them? Abi Millar finds out from Nikolaj Gadegaard, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Glasgow, and Henne van Heeren, owner of enablingMNT.

Off grid

Neurosurgeons have always had steady hands. Soon they might have precise navigation tools to go with them. Isabel Ellis speaks to Shadi Dayeh, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California San Diego, and Ahmed Raslan, associate professor of neurological surgery at Oregon Health and Science University, to find out what goes into creating their new electrocorticography grids, and how they improve upon the current standard of care in hospitals.

Pilot production

Developing a medical device from the initial idea or concept through to full-scale production is a challenging task for any company, but especially for SMEs or start-ups developing their first product. In the case of photonics, MedPhab, Europe’s first pilot line for medical devices, can help companies accelerate the time between concept and production. Jussi Hiltunen, research professor at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, as well as MedPhab coordinator, explains how MedPhab’s combination of technology and expertise helps product developers bring their ideas to market.

Parts on demand

Additive manufacturing has yielded a great many benefits for medical device companies, hospitals and ultimately the patients they serve. But sometimes time is of the essence, and with cost pressures a part of outsourcing 3D-printed parts, some industry experts believe in-house facilities will become a norm for patient-specific device manufacturing. Isabel Ellis speaks to Elizabeth Silvestro, AM engineering manager at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Andy Christensen, chair of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 3D Printing Special Interest Group, to better understand the impact, and the future, of AM at the point of care.

The electronic executive

Automating a production line is a task in and of itself, but when products fall into the category of microelectronics, the complexity increases tenfold. Advances in microelectronics have brought many novel devices to market, but although many rave about the benefits to patients, the processes on the production floor remain a mystery to those outside of the manufacturing profession. Jim Banks speaks to Girish Wable of medical design and engineering company Jabil, and Dr. Ravi Subrahmanyan of Micro Systems Engineering, to find out what makes microelectronic production tougher to automate, and what’s required to do so.