What You Need to Know About Electromechanical Medical Devices

electromechanical technician
Credit: Alexandre Debiève   Many medical devices combine the power of electrical and mechanical technology into life-saving products. In this article, we look at electromechanical engineering technology, how it pertains to medical devices, and the promising future of electromechanics in the field of medicine.  

What Are Electromechanical Devices?

Though it sounds complicated, you don’t need to be an electromechanical technician to understand the science. Simply put, an electromechanical (EM) device refers to any apparatus that combines mechanical and electrical processes. EM devices work in one of two ways:
  1. By transducing electrical energy into mechanical energy (like an electric motor).
  2. By converting mechanical energy into electrical energy (like a generator).
There are a variety of professions responsible for the design, assembly, production, and maintenance of these devices. This includes an electro-mechanical engineer, electro-mechanical assembler, electro-mechanical technician, and so on.  

Electromechanical Technology for Medical Devices

The term “medical device” encompasses a range of products and technologies. Bedpans and bandages are no less considered medical devices than their electric and electronic counterparts. So, how do we categorically differentiate between these types? The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns each medical device to one of three regulatory categories.
  • Class I

Comprising 47% of all medical devices, Class I products are simple, low-risk, and not considered life-saving. Examples include our aforementioned bedpans and bandages. Roughly 95% of Class I devices are exempt from the standard FDA regulatory process, which translates to a speedy time to market (TTM).
  • Class II

Class II devices make up 43% of all medical devices. This category presents a higher risk to patients as compared to Class I devices. Compared to Class I devices, their product development lifecycle is lengthier. Blood transfusion kits, electric wheelchairs and contact lenses are all examples. Electromechanical Medical Devices Credit: Natanael Melchor  
  • Class III

While only 10% fall into this category, these devices include medical robotic equipment with the most advanced engineering technology. As a result, they pose the highest risk of the three classes. That’s why these devices follow such rigorous design and development pathways. Common examples include pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, and cochlear implants. This is also the class where we find many life-saving electromechanical medical devices, such as ventricular assist devices (VAD) and total artificial hearts (TAH).  

How It Works: Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD)

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is an electro mechanical medical device. A pump is surgically attached to the apex of the heart, where a motor pushes blood from one, or both, of the heart’s damaged ventricles to the rest of the body. A VAD has three primary use cases:
  1. It can act as a bridge between a failing heart and a transplant surgery.
  2. It can be used as destination therapy; that is, a long-term treatment option for those who don’t qualify for a transplant.
  3. It can be used as a bridge to recovery in more mild cases of heart failure.
As previously discussed, electromechanical systems can operate in one of two fashions. VADs follow the motor model: Electricity stored in the battery is converted to mechanical energy in the pump. Specifically, the internal pump (motor) is attached to an external controller by way of a driveline. This controller operates the pump and is directly connected to an electrical power source (either a wall outlet or battery pack).


The Future of Electromechanical Medical Technology

Looking towards the future, it’s easy to see the potential for new, life-saving electromechanical medical devices. Though mechanical technology has largely remained unchanged, battery technology promises exciting and innovative possibilities. Moreover, technology continues to get smaller while becoming increasingly powerful. This trend will allow for the miniaturization of future devices, making them less obtrusive, more versatile, and more convenient for end-users. As material science matures, devices will also require less effort to maintain and repair.  

Trust RBC Medical for All Your Electromechanical Medical Devices

Want to turn your medical device idea into a reality? Our extensive experience spans more than 25 years and encompasses a wide range of projects. From consulting to design to manufacturing, we take care of the entire development process. By following FDA design control systems, we help clients meet regulatory compliance in the US, as well as internationally (ISO 13485-2016 and ISO 14971-2019). Our professional team of electrical engineers, designers, and technicians work to maximize benefits, minimize risk, and reduce TTM. Contact us today to learn more about our renowned medical device manufacturing and design.  
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