V13 - BIO - Lead Story 1
Brad Schulz
Systems Engineer and Program Leader
MTS Systems Product Development Group

Biomedical Testing Challenges:  A Systems Engineer's Perspective

Q: What are some of the challenges the biomedical testing industry faces right now?
Schulz: Biomedical test teams tend to work in much different types of facilities than other researchers. Many biomedical companies are start-ups, so they are working in leased, low-rise office space. The labs are often physically smaller than in a conventional industrial environment, and there is much less ability to reengineer the facility. This is why test engineers are looking for more compact test systems that can plug into the wall outlet, just like a printer or a copier.

Q: How does the biomedical industry’s rapid growth affect test teams?
Schulz: It creates demand for physical space. Think about a biomedical company that grows from five people to 50 in a year, for instance. If the product is successful, revenue rises, demand goes up and testing requirements increase as well. If this happens, the company may need to lease larger office space, in which case they will also need to relocate their test systems.

Q: Why is the biomedical market growing at such a fast rate?
Schulz: Many of the drivers are the same as in the broader healthcare market. We have an aging population. There is a desire to maintain a very high quality of life at advanced ages, and we now have the technologies to meet this demand. We can repair parts of the body that we couldn’t repair before. We can replace joints that we couldn’t replace before. These trends do not show any sign of slowing.

Q: What kind of pressure does this put on biomedical test teams?
Schulz: It puts them in an exciting but challenging situation. Medical devices must comply with very strict standards for performance and reliability. At the same time, biomedical test teams are working in a very competitive industry, where the first approved product is well positioned to capture the greatest market share. As a result, accurate testing is essential — but speed and productivity are equally vital.

Q: What unique concerns do biomedical researchers face when it comes to testing?
Schulz: The main difference is that biomedical devices and components interact with the human body, and each of us is slightly different. We have much greater variability than any engineered product, and researchers need to account for these differences during testing. The specimen itself can be anything from an implantable device to a surgical tool to a cadaveric sample — not just coupons that are uniform in size. As a result, there is a need for more complex fixturing. Many of these specimens are tested in fluid heated to body temperature, so the test system needs to be able to accommodate an environmental bath as well. Flexibility is key.

Q: What about the usability of the test system? Is this an issue for biomedical teams?
Schulz: Biomedical researchers are eager to develop the next blockbuster medical device, and so they are much more interested in running the test than fine-tuning the test system. At MTS, we are designing test systems that allow biomedical researchers to decide how much or how little time they want to spend on tuning and setup. We understand researchers want a straightforward, user-friendly interface that automates these kinds of tasks and lets them focus their attention on the test at hand.

Q: Is there a new test technology that aligns well with the biomedical industry’s needs?
Schulz: Electrodynamic actuation is a relatively new technology, primarily operating at lower force levels, that addresses a lot of the issues biomedical test teams have right now. These systems can be installed with relative ease, because they don’t require any additional infrastructure. They are easy to relocate after they are put into service and they are intuitive to use, which improves productivity. Overall, biomedical researchers need test systems that are flexible and easy to use, yet also powerful and reliable. Electrodynamic actuation fits the bill.

Q: Is MTS adding electrodynamic actuation to its portfolio?
Schulz: Yes, we recently introduced the MTS Acumen™ Electrodynamic Test System to give biomedical researchers and device manufacturers — among others — a compact and easy-to-use system capable of performing accurate dynamic and static tests. Biomedical researchers will find that MTS Acumen test systems provide an ideal solution for establishing an in-house test facility or quickly adding capacity to an existing test program. MTS has a long history of creating high-performance solutions for the entire spectrum of mechanical testing. The MTS Acumen system is a great addition to our lineup of solutions for biomedical testing.

>> MTS Acumen Electrodynamic Test Systems

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