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MedicalTech
nology

Digital health – the patient at the centre of digital solutions

As the world’s population keeps growing and aging, the need for healthcare applications will continue to increase and many new – especially digital – products will enter the market. AT&S has everything it takes to participate in this development and expand its position in this market segment.

Control and regulation units of prostheses require particularly flexible printed circuit boards. AT&S uses an extremely flexible base material with rolled copper to guarantee the required bending cycles and small bend radii.

Artificial intelligence makes it possible that 20% of medical services can also be performed digitally.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN HEALTHCARE

Digitalisation will fundamentally change the healthcare system in the years to come. Over the past years, digital data collection directly on the patient as well as digital health checks and the demand for digital healthcare services by patients – in other words: digital health – have gained growing importance. Along with companies currently represented in the healthcare market such as medical technology and therapy device manufacturers, digital companies selling smartwatches in addition to software will play an important role – mainly because such consumer devices are getting continuously better at measuring and processing health data and some of them already have medical certification.

Priority is given to technical innovations: AT&S aims to utilise roughly 8,000 additional square metres for new production lines at its site in Ansan, South Korea, to manufacture printed circuit boards for applications in medical technology by the end of 2020.

If everything goes according to plan, the new production facilities will have obtained all required customer qualifications by mid-2021. Overall, this project involves an investment of roughly € 30 million in this site.

Smartwatches are increasingly used as devices for mobile patient data collection. In addition, a wide variety of sensors are being developed which can either be applied to human skin or implanted near the surface to take a person’s temperature, pulse, blood pressure or blood sugar level. The measuring data can often be read via smartphones in an easy and contactless process. Examples of therapy devices are pacemakers or implants for neurostimulation.

The digital health market will therefore be worth just over US$ 500 billion in 2025.

28% annual growth is projected for the overall digital health market.

Miniaturisation in electronics can be achieved using a variety of printed circuit boards, substrate and module integration technologies such as embedding. Also, AT&S is one of just a few companies certified in accordance with the EN ISO 13485 standard for medical devices. Particularly high demands are placed on pacemakers and defibrillators. The printed circuit boards integrated into implants are highly advanced and subject to special qualification tests.

AT&S also creates innovative solutions for private use: the Cycle Tracker for example, which was co-developed by AT&S, helps women to record and predict their menstruation cycle. The user places temperature-sensitive sensor electronics under the arm with a plaster and enables an app on her smartphone. Information is then continuously transmitted to the phone via NFC (Near Field Communication).

Another example: patients with type 1 diabetes use a smart insulin pump supported by elements made by AT&S. It is fixed directly to the body with a plaster. By pumping insulin into the body continuously, the blood sugar level is controlled and stabilised. The application consists of two main units – the plaster with the needle, and the insulin cartridge, which is renewed on a regular basis. The pump and the electronic control unit remain functional together throughout the lifetime of the product.

In December 2019, AT&S broke ground on its site in Ansan, South Korea, for an upgrade and the expansion of its production. This underpins AT&S’s claim to be one of the leading suppliers of printed circuit boards and interconnect solutions in the medical segment in the future.

Highly complex printed circuit board solutions are used to meet the high requirements of diagnostic imaging.

Mobile collection and processing of patient data requires ever more functions on ever smaller space – and consequently a miniaturisation of electronics.