Putting safety first

Excelsys 1Power supply selection for medical equipment requires great care, to meet changing safety standards, react quickly to market demands, and ensure long term reliability, says Excelsys Technologies’ Dermot Flynn.

The healthcare industry is changing. Various factors are at work including the increasing age profile of patients, a rise in lifestyle related conditions and the growing popularity of outpatient and home care solutions. Selection of power supplies for medical applications is therefore a task that must be approached with great care; especially now that safety and environmental standards are undergoing substantial changes.

Regulatory changes
There have been major changes in the safety standards that govern medical equipment, not least the full adoption of the harmonised standard IEC60601-1 third edition for safety. Other notable changes include the IEC60601-1-2 fourth edition, which is due for adoption from 2017 onwards and revises electromagnetic compatibility. While this is a system requirement, due diligence in power selection can simplify and de-risk the EMC aspects of the standard.

Power supplies such as Excelsys’ CoolX and UltiMod have been tested and conform to the revised EMC immunity standard of both the third and fourth edition of this standard, thus helping system designers future proof their new product developments as well as legacy designs.

Pace of change
The pace of innovation set by this industry makes shortened product design cycles a survival imperative. Product concepts must move into production in the shortest possible time, however, medical equipment often requires customised voltages, coupled with approvals that can impact product development.

Flexible, modular products, such as the CoolX and UltiMod, are designed to meet these custom requirements from a standard product. The aim is to provide readily available, short lead-time product, while delivering a unique set of outputs. Shorter lead-times reduce inventories and allow manufacturers to react to market needs, with minimal disruption to production.

Maintaining reliability
Long term reliability is another key issue in medical equipment, given the mission critical nature of these products. Minimising heat generation can help as it increases the reliability of electronic components and the system as a whole. Traditionally, power supplies have been cooled by fans that move the heated air away, however, as fans are mechanical parts, they can be prone to failure, ultimately shortening system lifetime.

Selecting a power supply with a higher efficiency reduces the temperatures that components experience and will improve lifetime. Removing the need for fan cooling can also increase reliability, potentially by as much as 25 per cent. Designed to combine both these reliability increasing measures in one product, the CoolX fanless modular product boasts 93 per cent efficiency.

Eliminate risk
Medical system companies have to keep abreast of a range of factors when selecting a power supply. In the development stage, designs must be future-proofed to meet existing and impending regulation standards. Reliability should be designed-in from step one and it is also important to take account of the challenges that will be faced by operations further down the line regarding shorter lead-times and continuity of supply. Choosing a product that addresses all these issues, from a vendor who understands the medical segment’s technical and commercial challenges, will simplify system developments and eliminate risks.