How to choose the right connectors for medical technology


The Northern Connectors team explores some of the key factors to consider when selecting connectors for use in medical technology systems, and the benefits that can be realized by choosing the best products for these highly specific applications.

Electronic systems and technology play an absolutely central role in modern medical practice. From X-ray machines to advanced robotics, 21st century medicine depends on a variety of sophisticated electronic tools and devices, which must always operate with absolute precision and reliability.

As such, selecting high quality components to use in the design of these systems should be considered a top priority. Robust and versatile electrical connectors are necessary to ensure that this lifesaving equipment continues to operate without any interruptions, even under heavy use or in harsh environmental circumstances.

How are connectors used in medical applications?

Connectors are one of the most common and central components of any electronic system, and the same goes for medical technology. Regardless of the size or specific application of the medical device, high quality connector components will be required to reliably transmit power, data and other electrical signals within the system.

Connector components must therefore be selected carefully to ensure that control signals, sensor data, imaging information and power supply can be transmitted correctly at all times. This applies to a wide range of medical systems, including:

  • Digital x-rays
  • Electronic endoscopes
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Medical and surgical robotics
  • Patient monitoring systems
  • Portable Blood Pressure Monitors

By choosing the right connectors for these applications, end users will experience a wide range of benefits, including better overall performance, lower risk of technical failure, reduced maintenance requirements, and longer connector life. ‘equipment. All of these will ultimately result in greater operational ease and efficiency for medical staff, and better health outcomes for patients themselves.

What to Look for When Sourcing Connectors for Medical Use

Because each medical device is designed differently, the technical requirements of each application will differ in terms of voltage and current specifications, or the exact style and shape of connector that must be used.

However, there are several key attributes that will always be important to look for when sourcing connectors suitable for medical use:

Ease of use and installation

Medical technology is a field where there is little acceptable margin for error, so it is important to select connectors that help avoid this. Many of the most popular connectors used in medical applications are designed with simplicity in mind: with simple snap-on or push-pull coupling mechanisms that require no specialist knowledge to install them securely.

Additionally, clear visual marking and color coding can also help ensure connectors can be installed correctly at a glance, further minimizing the potential risk of human error.

Physical robustness and long-term reliability

Connectors for medical technology must be robustly designed and able to provide guaranteed performance over a long period of time, without the risk of spontaneous failure or the need for constant replacement. As such, the best connectors for this industry are designed to ensure that they can be disconnected and reconnected (known as “mating cycles”) many thousands of times without any degradation in performance or reliability.

Strong environmental protection

Medical equipment is intended for use in a wide range of different environmental conditions, some of which are extremely harsh. This includes devices intended for indoor and outdoor use, or in extreme temperatures. Additionally, these tools will often need to be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between uses, with intensive chemical cleaning processes.

As such, the connectors used with these devices will need to be fully waterproof and offer the highest levels of protection, typically up to IP67, IP68 or IP68K standards. This will ensure that the system is fully isolated against water, dust and other contaminants, even when exposed to full immersion or high pressure jets.

Appropriate design material

Achieving the strength required for a medical grade connector often depends on the correct material used in the component design. High-performance plastics are the most common option, as they can provide the level of heat and chemical resistance required for medical use, while being physically tough and easy to wipe down between uses.

Compliance with relevant regulatory standards

The entire medical industry is subject to the highest standards of regulatory oversight, and medical technology is no exception. Any medical device must fully comply with all relevant national and international standards governing the sector, in order to guarantee the safety of end users.

To ensure that each part of the system meets all necessary requirements, it is essential to research these standards in advance when sourcing connectors for medical technology applications.

Keep your medical technology up to date

A final key consideration when selecting components for medical applications is that it should be viewed as a process of continuous improvement, rather than just a one-time investment. Although the best connectors will reliably last for many years without interruption, it is essential to keep medical systems current as new advances emerge and onsite technology requires upgrading.

In the years to come, medical technology will likely continue to get smaller and more compact, requiring investments in miniaturized connectors capable of delivering the same performance in a smaller design. There is also a growing trend towards hybrid connection technology, which helps consolidate space by transmitting multiple signals through the same assembly.

Turning to a reputable connector supplier to help you select the right components and develop the most sophisticated system design for your needs can ensure that your medical technology remains future-proof and fit for purpose. By doing so, you will ensure that these systems continue to play a key role in protecting public health and well-being for many years to come.

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