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A health checklist for medical displays

10 November 2021

Display specialist, Relec Electronics has a wide variety of high quality displays for medical equipment and offers a design & modification service to meet stringent industry regulations
Display specialist, Relec Electronics has a wide variety of high quality displays for medical equipment and offers a design & modification service to meet stringent industry regulations

Integrating displays into medical equipment demands particular design, manufacturing & supply skills. Display specialist, Relec Electronics is able to offer design advice, as well as a customisation service for this highly specialised industry sector.

A central tenet of healthcare is to track and monitor vital signs and medical equipment designers are increasingly specifying TFT LCDs to display parameters such as heartbeat or temperature. TFT LCDs are easy to use and convenient for the end user, but there are some design considerations to bear in mind when specifying them into new medical devices.

The first is to ensure long term availability from a reliable supplier or design partner. It is not uncommon for certain TFTs to have a very short life cycle. It is typical for manufacturers to base a design on consumer grade panels, which means inexpensive TFTs can be used. This does mean that they are reliant on large consumer OEMs demand and specifications however, and the product may only be available for two to three years, with different design iterations offered during this period.  

The period of time from initial feasibility study and concept design to full scale production can be several years. It is important to bear in mind that the typical medical design development cycle is lengthy because it has to include design, verification testing, trial testing and relevant approvals have to be obtained.

Ensuring supply chains
Designers have to bear in mind that a partner will need to offer a long-term supply of a product at the onset of the design stage. This way, they can be confident that the project will avoid supply chain disruption or force design changes. Changes necessitated during the development cycle, or soon after production begins and regulatory approvals have been gained, can result in considerable cost penalties in either buying replacement parts or costs incurred through production delays.

For this reason, Relec only works with full industrial grade panels, because the products are available for a long period of time. Relec can also control the hardware around the units. This allows the company to develop, for example a fit, form and function alternative to replace a panel in the event it is made obsolete.

Medical equipment has to be reliable: after all, the TFT LCDs may be used in safety- and life-critical applications. Designers need to be confident that the TFT LCD is suitable for the particular end product’s environment, as well as reliable in operation.

Relec’s high reliability TFT displays products are manufactured in Taiwan, using only high quality, long life LEDs in the backlight design. Each unit is visually checked and batch testing takes place before dispatch. Individual testing can be requested, as an additional quality measure.

PCAP touch technology
Another consideration is ease of use and practicality for hygienic operation. In some medical circumstances, PCAP touch technology is ideal. Relec’s PCAP touch technology has the highest signal-noise-ratio available, improved EMC immunity for reliable operation with gloved hands or operation in water. It also allows frequency hopping and additional grounding points on the flexible printed circuit (FPC). Relec, leveraging its expertise in display design is also able to integrate custom firmware to prevent EMC issues from other areas of the equipment.

The company also offers a custom modification service to further enhance the performance, viewability, readability and reliability of the final display in a wide variety of demanding applications and environments.

In conclusion, the medical equipment market is incredibly varied - from lab equipment and mobile equipment for first responders, to diagnostic equipment, life support equipment, as well as treatment equipment and patient monitoring devices. Each piece of equipment is subject to different environmental challenges and needs to be designed accordingly. A display specialist is likely to be able to help with the certification required and technology options.

Relec has extensive knowledge and history in supplying products in to the medical and healthcare industry, which enables the company to understand the challenges each application may face. The experienced team is able to provide expert technical knowledge about in what may be required in the display design, as well as what modifications can be offered to ensure the display’s design meets the specific application requirements.

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