Medical Device Manufacturers: Six Things to Tell Your Piezoceramics Supplier

Medical Device Manufacturers: Six Things to Tell Your Piezoceramics Supplier

Jan 24, 2017

Harris has designed and supplied piezoceramic components and transducers for military applications for nearly 60 years and makes us a leading supplier of piezoceramics for the medical device industry.

What are piezoceramics? Simply put, they are a class of materials capable of producing an electrical charge in response to applied mechanical stress and also can exhibit mechanical strain when subjected to an applied electrical field. Piezoceramics have a wide range of commercial and medical applications, including imaging, wound care, drug delivery, suture welding, flaw detection and micropositioning. Piezoceramics can be found in devices as varied as medical and dental handpieces, aspirators, nebulizers, and ultrasonic cleaners, to name only a few.

Unfortunately, in the medical device industry, device makers with designs at various stages of development do not always have outlined designed criteria, or even what information their suppliers need to know to serve them most effectively. Our job as a supplier is to work with potential customers to come up with the best combination of properties and performance to meet their requirements.

Harris maintains clear communication with customers—not only to successfully deliver our product, but also to keep costs controlled and hit the market on schedule. But irrespective of who the supplier may be, device manufacturers should discuss the following six key areas with their piezoceramic supplier to ensure development of a successful design that leads to a high-performance product.

1. Application

The supplier needs to know what the device will do. Will it measure Doppler blood flow or liquid levels? Will it perform bubble or flow sensing, acoustic or medical imaging? Are you looking for surgical tool use, power applications, or HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound) for acoustic surgical procedures? Will it perform nebulization, cell disruption, or cosmetic or physical therapeutics?

2. Environment of Use

The performance of any transducer is controlled by various physical properties associated with the material, so it is crucial to choose a system that is optimized for its environment of use. What temperature range will the transducer be subjected to? Is it liquid or air coupled? Is its intended use active or passive, hand-held or robotic, topical or skin contact, intra-operative or surgical? Will it be sterilization compatible, implantable, or external? What are the mounting constraints?

3. Electrical Circuit Considerations

A piezoelectric transducer’s electrical impedance is a complicated, yet pertinent factor to optimizing its performance—the circuit to which it is connected must have certain characteristics, which are dictated by the component’s design. What are the intended drive voltage limits and range (low or high)? Will the device operate with AC or DC, wirelessly or cabled? Will it use electrical impedance matching information or have specific electrode material requirements?

4. Acoustic Performance Envelope

The signals emitted from ultrasonic piezoceramic transducers undergo attenuation as they propagate. High-frequency acoustic waves are especially susceptible to absorption with the increase of distance and thus, they experience large transmission loss gradually. The opposite is true for low-frequency ultrasonic waves. Which is more appropriate for the device? Will it employ high or low acoustic coupling? Will it be a resonant or anti-resonant device with broad or narrow band operation? What’s the intended frequency domain? Will it employ continuous or pulse echo functionality?

5. Tolerances

What are the electrical, acoustic, dimensional, and environmental requirements? Will there need to be special packaging considerations? All transducers react differently when exposed to varied electrical, acoustic, and environmental factors. Piezoceramics can be damaged by excessive temperature, mechanical stress, or electric fields; when combined, they may cause damage that would not have resulted from a single stressor. It’s important to take all these factors into consideration when specifying a piezoceramic type.

6. Competitive Influences

From a production and user experience point of view, how do you envision the device and its cost-value relationship? Is it low-cost, single-use, and disposable, or re-usable? Does it employ commercial off-the-shelf technology? What stage of development is the device at now? Will there be an extensive prototyping phase? Will production be high-volume? For export? Is the market for this product mature, or are you the first mover?

Effective communication between the customer and supplier is critical to building a great business relationship. Harris has equipped its employees with training and tools to build and develop customer intimacy to deliver great results. We enable our customers’ mission success through collecting and acting on voice of the customer input. Effective communication during the device design and material sourcing stages can help keep your solution on track.