San Francisco, CA. Consumer products dominate with respect to ICs volumes, said Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, Ph.D., CTO, Flexible Electronics, SEMI, but growth opportunities for the semiconductor industry are appearing in market verticals. Consequently, SEMICON West this year has focused on verticals such as smart automotive and smart medtech.

The latter topic was the focus of a Thursday afternoon session on electronics requirements and solutions for medical technology. Grupen-Shemansky noted that in general various elements of the supply chain—from materials to applications markets—don’t communicate well. SEMI’s role, she said, is to fill those gaps.

When it comes to medtech, she said, healthcare professionals have no visibility into the IC fab. A connection between IC and healthcare innovators would allow the latter to be more upfront in influencing what semiconductor devices get developed, and it can help semiconductor makers see what functionality is missing that might be useful in the application space.

“We foster R&D activity through consortia to bridge all elements of value chain,” she said.

She noted that SEMI assembles and distributes market data and publishes standards. Although headquartered in California, it serves sought to establish a fertile ground for semiconductor device development through collaborative efforts with worldwide regions.

Over the past 12 to 24 months, she explained, SEMI has been collaborating with the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group, FlexTech, and NextFlex to establish fertile ground for determining relevant semiconductor device content, with the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) also offering relevant research.

She noted that medtech venture-capital investment has been falling over past two decades, resulting in the participation of older, less dynamic companies, with a concomitant thinning out the potential acquisition field for larger companies. She said that at least one report has called for stakeholders in medtech to consider industry and government partnerships to promote innovation.

Medtech market drivers, she said, include ease of use and empowering patients with data and more control over their information and health. She also foresees increased adoption of wearables coupled with providing the patient with a consumer-like experience. And, of course, cost remains a key consideration.

Grupen-Shemansky offered several other observations:

  • Acute care is moving away from traumatic care to preventive care using smart devices to determine when excursions occur.
  • Single biometrics are giving way to multiple data sources.
  • Specialized silos are moving toward centralized data centers.
  • The move from empirical evidence-based approaches toward individual data approaches is driving the need computing power.

With regard to flexible hybrid electronics (FHE), she said, commonly printed elements include the antenna and interconnect. Elements that can be printed include power components, displays, communications interface, and sensors. Elements not usually printed include processors, memory, and medium- to far-field communications circuitry—essentially the high-performance circuits.

She said she sees promise in dual-use—with technologies applied to measuring stress and cognitive functionality in military applications, for example, applied to elite athletes, where a 1% change in performance can separate a winner from  someone who does not make the medal stand. Similarly, wearables for the dynamic assessment of hydration status could have broad applicability.

SEMICON West session looks at electronic requirements for medtech
Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.