Herpa Tech is prepared for medical RFID boom
Of all the possible substrate materials for RFID technology, none is quite as challenging and complex as the human body. Wearable solutions are gaining traction in medical applications, but the requirements for the safe use of technology in healthcare are high.
Peter Nilsson, CEO of Herpa Tech, spoke to RFID & Wireless IoT Global about the high quality required to manufacture medical RFID tags, especially stick-to-skin solutions such as NFC diabetes sensors.
Trend towards wearable medical sensors
As a contract manufacturer for complex medical solutions including medical electronics, Herpa Tech is at the cutting edge of new technological developments in the healthcare field. CEO Peter Nilsson has identified wearable IoT sensors as a definite trend for 2018 and beyond: “Hospitals and care providers have largely arrived at the conclusion that wearable medical sensors save time and money. For an electrocardiogram, for example, the cost of having a patient take the test at home is lower than that the cost of keeping the patient in the hospital for a day.”
NFC sensors revolutionise diabetes treatment
What changes are brought about by wearable medical electronics? As an example, Nilsson cites NFC diabetes sensors: “The stick-to-skin sensor communicates with the patient’s smartphone via NFC. The deciding factor is the ease-of-use – patients no longer need to stick a needle into their bodies several times per day. Wireless IoT wearables lead to a direct improvement in patient comfort and safety.”
Is “predictive medicine” a future application?
Similar applications are possible for longterm monitoring of patients’ heartrate, temperature, or other medical indicators. The healthcare data can be uploaded into the cloud via a smartphone app.“Your doctor can analyse your indicators remotely and call you in for treatment. In the future, the data could also lead to predictive medicine – similar to the ‘predictive maintenance’ used to keep machines running,” Nilsson explains. “The technology to realise these applications is already here. It is proven in industry, logistics, and maintenance applications. Now it has to be applied to the human body, with all the technological challenges that implies.”
Ensuring adhesive performance and biocompatibility
Herpa Tech possesses years of experiences in designing stick-to-skin medical solutions. Peter Nilsson explains the complexities of developing for this unique material: “Human skin is a complex substrate for adhesives and electronics, with high requirements for quality and patient safety. The adhesive has to stick for up to 15 days.
Not all skin types are the same – there are dry skins, flaky skins, oily skins, and more. Regardless, the wearable has to survive showering, bathing, towelling off, and even steam baths. In addition, common allergies play a role for biocompatibility. Production therefore almost necessarily includes different variations.”
Clean room production and label conversion
In order to accommodate the high quality requirements and the strict regulations for medical adhesives, Herpa Tech relies on a clean room production with ISO class 8 – meaning each cubic metre can only contain about 30,000 particles larger than 5 micrometers. “For all products with skin contact, clean room production is a must,” Nilsson reports. “We can also convert labels in our clean room setting, allowing us to manufacture medical RFID products for stick-to-skin applications.”
Push towards quality assurance
Herpa Tech has heavily invested in quality assurance equipment. The company’s latest investment is an “ageing machine”, a stress test cabin which allows the making of predictions of about 3-to-5 years of performance within a week. “This test device provides new results to which few medical or RFID companies have access at the moment, especially for products with long intended life-cycles. In addition, it reveals previously unnoticed variations within production batches. Finding and eliminating this variance improves the entire process chain and further improves product quality,” Nilsson says.
“We know how to stick the wearable to the skin, the layers to use, and the biocompatibility of all materials. Customers can rely on us to manufacture their products according to their precise specifications. Herpa Tech has committed early and is ready for the next step.” - Peter Nilsson
Full traceability for all Herpa Tech products
In addition to investing into quality assurance, Herpa Tech has established full transparency within its own production processes. The company’s CEO reports: “When a customer comes to us with a complaint about a Herpa Tech device or component, the UID of this product allows us to know precisely when, where, and by whom it was produced. This works with all items – of which Herpa Tech produces millions each month. Traceability strengthens our commitment to quality and allows us to maintain an optimized clean room production.”
Healthcare requires 100 percent quality
The main reason for Herpa Tech’s continuous improvement processes lies in the healthcare industry’s high quality requirements. Peter Nilsson explains the differences compared to other RFID applications: “For library RFID solutions, for example, the market functions mainly on price. One chip in 100 being faulty is seen as normal.
In healthcare RFID solutions, one percent or even one half of a percent reading errors is just too much. Herpa Tech has understood and internalised these challenges, and we know that they are also important to customers in other quality-focused industries, such as automotive and logistics.”
Growth markets: pharmaceuticals and healthcare
Despite the company’s ability and willingness to expand to other quality-focused markets, pharmaceuticals and healthcare are growth markets according to Herpa Tech: “We bring the benefits of validated high-quality contract manufacturing to other industries which value it. But healthcare is our focus at the moment. RFID technology for medical applications will evolve – the different technologies will continue to converge.
In addition to tracking and tracing, authentication of medical technology via RFID is growing. Providers who want to ensure that only authorised consumables are used in their devices equip their devices with RFID technology.”
Herpa Tech is prepared for medical RFID boom
Herpa Tech has all the necessary knowledge required to succeed in the healthcare RFID market, Nilsson reports: “We know how to stick the wearable to the skin, the layers to use, and the biocompatibility of all materials. Customers can rely on us to manufacture their products according to their precise specifications.
Contract manufacturing for medical products requires precise input, especially in the healthcare market where each country requires different certifications and standards. Complying with these standards takes patience, practice, and endurance. Herpa Tech has committed early and is ready for the next step.”