Dennis M. Zogbi, publisher of Passive Component Industry Magazine, talked with Kory Schroeder, Product Engineering Manager for Stackpole Electronics, Inc., in October 2006 to get an update on the market environment and discuss how they are addressing trends in the global medical test and scan equipment market and the medical implant market. Stackpole Electronics, Inc. is a leading global manufacturer of resistors, supplying to the worlds largest OEMs, contract manufacturers, and distributors.
PCI: We know Stackpole supplies passive electronic components to the medical equipment and implant markets. What type of medical electronic companies do you supply passive electronics components?
Schroeder: Our largest customers are in the portable and implantable heart defibrillator markets.
PCI: Does Stackpole offer both high voltage >500 VDC and high frequency >900 MHz for medical devices?
Schroeder: We offer two SMD chip resistors with high voltage capability as well as a two-leaded resistor series with capability for voltages above 500 volts. We have three SMD inductor technologies for high-frequency use: multi-layer, thin film, and wirewound. Finally, we have single-layer disk varistors for voltages above 500 VDC, as well as small multi-layer varistors for high-frequency transient protection.
PCI: GE told me they were afraid of tin whiskers in passives complying with RoHS—should they be afraid?
Schroeder: The probability of failure due to tin whiskers is far less than what many medical (and military, for that matter) customers think. The combination of a nickel barrier under the plated termination coupled with the use of matte tin instead of glossy has reduced the occurrence of tin whisker growth to a negligible level from our point of view.
PCI: Do you have thin-film technology for the medical implant market?
Schroeder: Yes, including a moisture-resistant Nichrome resistor.
PCI: Are you expanding your capacity for CY 2007?
Schroeder: Yes. The biggest planned increases are in thin film (30% increase) and wirewounds (20% increase).
PCI: How do you see medical electronics markets in the future? Can you give us insight into other implantable markets that are emerging? How about test and scan markets emerging that are pushing the envelope or raising the eyebrows of your design engineers?
Schroeder: The future of medical electronics looks very strong. More and more new applications come forth each day, driven by an aging population with increasing disposable income. Because of this, they are willing to spend their dollars getting the latest tests during their checkups, for example. There are also increasing numbers of preventative medical devices. One particular customer is building devices designed to save an estimated 30% of first-time heart attack victims. These devices are not in competition with the larger, pricey devices from the medical giants. Instead, theoretically, it will increase the market for the pricey devices by saving the lives of patients who initially wouldn’t be a candidate to use the expensive device. Another emerging market driver is the push to make critical life-saving devices, such as defibrillators, more accessible to the public. By reducing the cost and size of these devices, it makes it practical to put portable defibrillators on board ambulances, airplanes, and in other public places. This trend is causing an increased interest in three particular areas:
1) moving leaded components to SMD and down-sizing existing SMD parts to smaller SMD packages, 2) precision 3) SMD devices, and 3) high-voltage SMD.
PCI: Regarding growth potential of passive electronic components in the medical industry, in your opinion, will the growth favor the exploratory segment of medical test and scan equipment or medical implants?
Schroeder: While we don’t have a broad enough customer base to truly give an accurate market picture, for us it is the exploratory segment that is growing more rapidly. Even with all the new implantable devices currently and with more arising each week, they still have a much more limited market as compared to exploratory devices.
PCI: Medical implants and the passive electronics components they contain have very stringent requirements. Do you anticipate an increase in competition in this application-specific market due to the high-reliability factor and liability concerns?
Schroeder: Reliability requirements will keep a lot of competitors out of the market, certainly. As the products move into their mature phase of their product cycle, however, there is bound to be increased competition. At that point, there will be much less risk and less chance of some unknown barrier arising.
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