Electronics comprises key technologies in the field of medicine, from diagnosis to treatment. Increasing digitalisation of all aspects of life and patient desire for greater autonomy is driving this industry’s development at an unprecedented pace. At electronica 2016, taking place at the Messe München trade-fair centre, 8-11 November, exhibitors will present the latest technologies and products in medical electronics.

Medical technology is one of the most innovative industries in the world. According to industry association MedTech Europe, more than 11,000 patents from the medical-technology sector were submitted to the European Patent Office in 2014 – more than all other branches of industry combined. 41% of those were submitted by European companies.

The market as a whole is characterised by rapid progress. German medical-technology association BVMed reports that approximately a third of German manufacturers’ sales are generated by products that are no more than three years old. Global sales across all sectors increased by 6.8% in 2015, up from a 4.6% increase in 2013-2014. Electronic components are one of the most important drivers of innovation.

Growth market for wearable healthcare

Placed around the wrist, in the ear or in running shoes, wearable healthcare devices are expected to revolutionise medical care in the next few years, allowing physicians to monitor patients’ vital statistics or even diagnose illnesses from afar. Technology also has a great deal of potential when it comes to prevention, because illnesses can be recognised earlier and with greater accuracy. Electronic components from sensors and elements in the signal chain – such as power management, controllers and wireless units – constitute the heart of wearables that collect and analyse data.

A panel discussion at electronica 2016 titled ‘Wearables for healthcare – components for digital medicine’ (2.00pm on 8 November, hall A3, stand 242) is dedicated specifically to components of this type. Industry representatives will explain what capabilities wearables must have in order to meet the healthcare sector’s future requirements. The plenary session’s participants include Jeanne Forget-Funk, marketing vice-president for Bosch Sensortec; Markus Vogt, healthcare director at EBV Elektronik; and Ruben De Francisco Martin, programme manager for wearable healthcare at IMEC.

In addition, ETH Zurich is holding a session titled ‘Mechatronic solutions for people with disabilities and the cybathlon’ that will examine the various ways robots can help people with paralysis of the extremities (3.30pm on 8 November, hall A3, stand 242).

Precision in low-pressure sensors

AMSYS is presenting a series of digital low-pressure sensors at electronica 2016 that are designed for the future. A digital pressure signal is available as an output signal that is proportional to differential pressure changes. The sensor meets high medical requirements with regard to resolution and precision.

What makes these sensors special is their miniaturised design, improved zero position in the bidirectional differential SM9541, and the bidirectional version’s ability to measure ultra-low pressure and overpressure. As a result, the sensors can be integrated into small and complex medical devices. The long-term stability of the sensors is listed as 0.2% a year. The miniature sensors are used to monitor breathing in incubators and apnoea devices, as well as gases (flow meters) and filters.

Medical robotics

SIIX-AGT Medtech has developed a robot for use in the medical sector. The Merlin logistics robot is self-propelled and equipped with the intuitive power drive system, a control platform for robots. A unique quality of Merlin is that it is GPS-controlled and can find its way around a hospital on its own; equipped with artificial intelligence, it optimises its own route every time. Thanks to its sensors, it can detect and move around obstacles. Merlin’s other special feature is its cooling unit, which enables it to transport laboratory samples or vaccines in hospitals.