Medical connectors could be immune to viruses, says Smiths

High reliability connectors which are disposable could soon be used in medical electronics applications.

Guglielmi - Smiths connectors - MONO

Gabriel Guglielmi

This is the prediction of Gabriel Guglielmi, vice-president of business development, Smiths Connectors, and he says the company is developing the technologies to make this happen.

A connector technology the company is working on is a material for the connector which is immune to viruses.

“A material that is immune to viruses does not require sterilisation and if you can remove that, the benefit to the user is great,” said Guglielmi.

This is one of the connector design technologies which Smiths is developing as part of a five-year product development strategy.

“We have a list of technologies which we believe can impact various markets in the next three to five years,” said Guglielmi.

But Guglielmi believes materials technologies can impact the medical market very much sooner.

For example, usability is an important aspect of medical connector design.

The growing use of electronic systems in healthcare requires doctors and nurses to learn how to use electrical connectors.

These can be sensitive devices especially when connecting higher resolution imagers with high speed interfaces and even optical fibre.

For example, connectors on MRI scanners can be easily damaged if incorrectly fitted.

Damaged connectors can be a big cost to hospitals, and Guglielmi believes increasing the reliability and usability of these connectors will be important.

Guglielmi says high specification contacts technology from the military market can be used in medical systems to improve reliability. Also usability can be improved with new connector assembly designs.

For example, the HyperGrip IP67-sealed connector for medical applications has push-pull latching for one-hand mating.

Oil and gas exploration systems are another application where Smiths is looking in improve connector reliability.

Guglielmi said the emergence of ‘fracking‘ techniques to extract oil is having a big impact on the oil and gas market.

Fracking is a technique applied to wells for shale gas, tight gas, tight oil, and coal seam gas. It involves using high pressure liquids to fracture the rock to release previously difficult to get at oil and gas deposits.

“Fracking is already having a big impact in the US market, less so in Europe, but there is a potential market in the UK,” said Guglielmi.

“A common reason for failure in a drilling tool is the connector,” said Guglielmi. “Our target is to increase reliability of the connector and increase the time between maintenance checks by a factor of two.”

The key technology is a contact which can withstand the very high temperatures experienced at the drilling head.

“For this we see oil and gas connectors adopting contact and materials technologies from the space sector to create a new type of high speed but rugged connector,” said Guglielmi.

Smiths has also taken an established connector such as the D-Sub and hand-tooled it for high-speed connectors in space or other high-reliability systems.

“Where many others in the industry held a collective view of D-Sub as being a mature product that did not allow for further improvement, we viewed it as an opportunity to make it even more viable,” said Guglielmi.

The connector has been designed to ground the outer shield quadrax and twinax contacts directly to the shell of the connector. A six-positioned keyed jack post allows for 36 possible keying combinations ensuring that the correct high- speed rugged D-Sub plug is mated to the correct high-speed receptacle

According to Guglielmi, the various research groups within Smiths have identified a number of future technologies which can address a number of different markets – medical, oil exploration and transportation.

“The big technology drives are connector size and interface speed, but there will also be an emphasis on reliability and more ‘in the field’ test data,” said Guglielmi.


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