The Role Batteries Play In Wearable Medtech

Louise Smyth

With Europe’s wearable medical device market expected to more than double its 2015 value by 2020, it is critical that medical original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are launching products that are safe, reliable and effective. Here, Michele Windsor, global marketing manager of medical battery manufacturer Accutronics, explains the role batteries play in this.

While he may have co-founded Intel, Gordon Moore’s greatest contribution to the world — and particularly the electronics industry — is Moore’s law; the 1965 observation and prediction that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit increases by a factor of two every two years.
 
It may have been a prediction when Moore published his paper in 1965, but it’s since become more of a benchmark for the electronics industry. This has never been more apparent than it has since the turn of the century, where we’ve seen technology from personal computers and mobile phones to cardiac monitoring equipment shrink in size but increase in functionality and power.
 
It is these developments in electronics that have led to the rapid rise of wearable devices, particularly in critical sectors such as healthcare and medical technology (MedTech). European medical OEMs have been at the forefront of this trend.
 
According to research firm Market Data Forecast, Europe’s wearable medical device market was valued at $1.37bn in 2015 and, based on the company’s estimates from late 2016, is expected to grow to $3.34bn by 2020. This ushers in an exciting time for medical OEMs, but only if design engineers make the right decisions.
 
Design engineering opportunity

With a rapidly growing market comes an opportunity for wearable medtech OEMs to develop effective equipment that adds value to their business. This doesn’t necessarily mean pushing the boundaries of wearable medtech with every new product; it can be as simple as doing the right things exceptionally well.
 
For wearable medical devices, this will mean selecting the right components that can overcome the typical challenges of medtech. Accutronics has worked closely with medical OEMs for many years and during this time we’ve observed that the biggest challenges come from product life and device run time.
 
Fortunately, these issues can be easily addressed. The challenge for design engineers is identifying the right time to consult with a medical battery specialist to ensure the problems can be overcome in the most effective way. The general rule is: the sooner, the better.
 
For example, Accutronics is currently working with design engineers at wearable medtech OEMs across Europe to bring the pouch-cell batteries manufactured by our US parent company, Ultralife Corporation, into the market.
 
The innovative Thin Cell range of non-rechargeable primary batteries are the ideal fit for wearable devices and drug delivery systems. These batteries outperform traditional lithium coin cells, both in terms of energy density rating — up to 400Wh/kg for a longer run time — and a higher retention of capacity when stored. This helps avoid the passivation that can make stored lithium coin cell batteries unreliable.
 
However, certain wearable devices will demand rechargeable batteries. For these projects, design engineers must consult with battery manufacturers as early in the product development process as possible. Introducing the battery specifications at the initial design stages will avoid redesign costs and performance issues during use.
 
By doing this, design engineers can ensure they design and manufacture a better quality of product that will meet the growing demand and expectation of wearable medtech.
 
These demands are the same for end users and OEMs alike: an assurance of safety, reliability and effectiveness. Battery selection plays a pivotal role in that and design engineers must choose carefully and consult with specialists to ensure the best result for the device, the market and the user.