Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Accutronics have a new Blog

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015


We can’t believe it’s been 12 months since the launch of our new energy-dense batteries for Hi-tech portable medical equipment at Compamed 2014, and just how successful the CMX Series has been over the past year. 

The new smart battery range fulfils the needs of manufacturers of high powered medical devices. The CMX series really packs a punch - offering high energy density along with high power discharge. Medical OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are now able to produce innovative portable devices without compromising on safety and reliability in life-critical applications.

The medical market is a challenging environment, and understandably so. With people's lives on the line it is essential that medical practitioners can rely on their equipment to perform under pressure. The rise in the use of portable devices such as acute ventilators, anaesthesia workstations and intra-oral scanners has left many medical OEMs struggling to keep pace in the market.  The CMX Series of batteries and chargers has been designed specifically for medical OEMs following extensive research and discussion with customers and hospitals.

“Part of our branded Entellion range, the CMX meets stringent regulations, demanding development schedules and innovation aims, whilst minimising unit costs," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics. “The CMX Series, as with our other Entellion products, bridge the gap between custom and standard batteries and chargers”.

The seven batteries in the CMX range use three different cell types to provide specific performance attributes which are required for the medical device market.  Smart features of the CMX series include active and passive protection circuits that prevent over-temperature, over and under-voltage, overload and short circuit.  Forming an essential part of its medical device operation, smart power management means the battery only requests charge when needed and shuts down when not being used. Accurate fuel gauging is possible to 1% through an LCD display, further enhancing reliability.

CMX series batteries comply with regulatory certifications necessary for use in medical devices. In terms of safety they meet the requirements of both UL2054 (2nd edition) and IEC62133:2012 (2nd edition), the latter being a mandatory requirement for medical devices being certified to IEC60601-1 (3rd edition).  They also meet the requirements of The Transport of Dangerous Goods, Methods of Tests and Criteria, UN ST/SG/AC.10.11 Rev5 Section 38.3 which is a mandatory requirement for the transportation of Lithium ion batteries.

Hospitals can now perform routine power management checks without having to remove the medical device from service using the smart charger that accompanies the CMX battery. A single charger can be used for different sized batteries, because the two devices automatically communicate exact voltage requirements.

Whether batteries or chargers, the Entellion range is available off-the shelf or can be easily customised to meet particular OEM requirements. Options include product labelling and case colours, software setup and SHA-1 algorithmic security, which prevents counterfeit batteries being used under fraudulent warranty claims.

For more information on the CMX Series of batteries & chargers contact us today

Monday, 16 November 2015

Going mini at world's biggest medical show

Mini battery for portable medical devices smaller than credit card

The doors have now opened at Compamed in Düsseldorf, Germany. Co-hosted with Medica, Compamed is the world's largest medical technology (MedTech) trade show which runs from November 16-19. This year Accutronics are exhibiting its smallest medical battery and charger the CC1150 mini credit card battery and CX3050 desktop charger.   These small batteries target the growing demand for portable medical devices used in hospitals and in home healthcare and can be seen on stand H18 in Hall 8b.

The event will see 728 companies from 37 countries come together with over 17,000 trade visitors in medical technology sectors ranging from nanotechnology and test and instrumentation to certification and medical manufacturing.

The CC1150 mini credit card battery is a 3.7V, 1.15h (4.2Wh) Lithium-ion 2.0A battery measuring just 54mm square and 9.5mm high, occupying just half the footprint of a standard credit card.

Rare in batteries of this size, the CC1150 also features an active electronic protection system that prevents overcharge, over discharge and short circuit, crucial for hands-on environments such as hospitals. In addition, the built-in, high accuracy, impedance tracking, fuel gauge means the CC1150 can track battery status information including remaining capacity (mAh), remaining runtime, percentage charge, battery voltage (mV) and temperature.

"Even though medical devices are getting smaller, battery OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have been slow to provide devices that pack the same functionality into smaller form factors," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics. "This is why we've developed the CC1150 mini credit card battery and CX3050 charger.

"OEMs can reduce their testing costs and improve return on investment by specifying these units. This range is fully tested to meet the international requirements of IEC62133 and UN38.3 and, because the battery is under 100Wh, further time and costs can be saved during transportation."

The CC1150 mini credit card battery is accompanied by the CX3050, a slimline desktop charger, which allows the battery to be charged separately from the device. "There is a trend among many medical OEMs to use embedded batteries," continued Oliver. "However, for medical devices, it's not always practical to take the entire device to a charging point. For these situations, simply swapping the empty battery for a fully charged one, allows devices to remain in continuous use - this is where our charger really comes into its own."

The CX3050 desktop charger is supplied with a 100-240VAC wall mounted power supply, charging the battery in just 2.5 hours. Built in LEDs indicate power, charging, fully charged and fault conditions. Furthermore, interchangeable AC blades mean the units can be used in the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and China. The CX3050 is also pre-qualified with certification for UL and IEC60950-1 as well as being CE marked. Customers can further customise the casing, labelling and packaging.

Come to meet us on our stand where you can also view many of our custom medical battery and charger solutions (Accupro) and other Entellion products and discuss your upcoming projects - Stand H18 in Hall 8b from 16-19 November.

You may also like to visit the Suppliers Forum in Hall 8b where Neil Oliver will be providing a presentation on 'The Lithium Ion Regulatory Maze' on Tuesday 17th November at 13:15 hrs.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Medical Technology Q&A

Rob Phillips, managing director of professional battery manufacturer Accutronics, has identified several key trends that are emerging in the MedTech sector, from rising energy densities to new innovations such as wireless charging. Below he offers his insights into these trends, where he predicts to see the most market growth in the next twelve months and where Accutronics fits into the industry.

Who are you and what do you do? 
I'm Rob Phillips, managing director of Accutronics Ltd. Accutronics is a successful independent battery business serving specialist OEM’s in the Medical Device market and similar sectors, specialising in developing and manufacturing high-performance smart battery & charger systems.
We have an excellent portfolio of demanding OEM customers, who enjoy a real competitive advantage from their long-term partnerships with us.

As well as the medical and healthcare sector, our smart batteries are used in defence and security, as well as industrial test and instrumentation sectors. From small credit-card sized batteries for use in wearable medical devices to intelligent power vaults for use in high-power, high-discharge environments in hospitals, we make them all.

Some of our technical achievements include class leading protection circuits that prevent batteries from over charging, over discharging and overheating, as well as algorithmic security that prevents fake batteries from being used in life-critical medical applications.

How would you sum up your company?
Accutronics enables forward-thinking MedTech companies to create and deliver the next generation of portable medical devices.

As a leading battery manufacturer, we're dedicated to helping overcome new challenges including the use of portable devices in extreme environments, as well as improved battery security aimed at eliminating counterfeits. To do this, we've brought together a passionate team of designers, engineers and market specialists to apply their expertise in creating the battery solutions of tomorrow.

Name a business achievement you are most proud of?
Having grown the company from a startup in 2009, during one of the worst recessions in history, Accutronics is now a first-choice partner for some of the world's leading MedTech OEMs. This is something we're really proud of.

What excites you about this industry?
The environment of constant innovation is enthralling. Knowing that all these efforts are aimed at improving people's lives and the quality of their health makes this a very rewarding industry to be in. On top of this, there are real opportunities open to smaller and medium-sized companies to play a significant role in this innovation.

We've identified several key trends in the MedTech sector: battery energy densities are rising, as more and more equipment is becoming mobile; security is a big concern, especially when it comes to counterfeit batteries; the demand for premium medical devices in the Asian MedTech sector is growing rapidly; new innovations such as fast and wireless charging are on the rise; and finally, the development of antimicrobial polymers and surfaces is providing an extra line of defence against superbugs.

Where do you predict industry growth will come from over the next 12 months?
The BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, are widely recognised as being economies with the fastest growing infrastructure in areas such as health service assets, transportation and specifically portable medical devices, which will deliver increased flexibility and value to healthcare users. This is where we expect most of the growth to come from.

Which medical device do you wish you had invented and why?
The plastic syringe, as it's one of the most versatile products. It's more robust and lighter than glass. It's much cheaper to manufacture, there must have been millions manufactured already. Products like the plastic syringe offer a lot of scope for use in the field and are indispensable in places like Africa where the logistics of medical equipment can be very challenging.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Which is the right project methodology for you?

It seems nowadays that there is a rule, methodology and philosophy for everything. Many of these rules have been around for decades so it raises the obvious question, 'are the old methods still relevant in an age of rapid innovation and uncertainty?' This is especially pertinent for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) where even a small advantage can mean the difference between success and failure. Here Prabhjit Singh, production manager at Accutronics looks at the top methodologies and evaluates how OEMs can choose the best one for them.

Developing a new product is not easy. The process of consultation, design, production, testing, logistics, integration and support can be challenging for even the best OEMs. This is made even more difficult in highly regulated industries such as the medical, security and defence markets. Here, products must not only meet stringent regulations, but also perform in extreme environments, where resistance to temperature fluctuations, humidity and vibration shock is critical.

When asked how he developed new products, the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, famously quipped that, "it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times people don't know what they want until you show it to them." This very disruptive approach evidently worked for Apple and means that the company continues to produce some of the most desirable consumer products on the market.

So how does one go about choosing a methodology that offers the best of both worlds, a philosophy that is quick to adapt to change and yet is thorough enough to cater for quality control and planning? First we need to see what's available.

Project management methodologies can be broadly categorised into two areas, the first group are the traditional formal methods. The main systems include Prince2, Six Sigma, PMBOK (Product Management Body of Knowledge), TQM (Total Quality Management), QFD (Quality Function Deployment) and the Waterfall model. The second group has emerged from this and is known as lean. This includes lean, agile, JIT (Just in Time), TPS (Toyota Production System) and Kanban among others.

Suit up
To sum up, the formal methodologies all prescribe a holistic, start-to-finish, approach to process driven environments where quality of output must be maintained while reducing the variability of each output. Whether its business or manufacturing, formal methods are all about measurable, quantifiable, result oriented outcomes. This includes cost reduction, optimised time management and a deep understanding of inherent risks and benefits of each action.

While the formal methods are great for large scale, often multinational, projects, they can be difficult to administer. They are usually resource intensive, inflexible and bureaucratic in nature, making them difficult to roll out in smaller projects.

Going lean
At the other end of the spectrum we have the lean methodologies. Popularised by Japanese automotive manufacturers, lean, agile and just-in-time (JIT) systems are all about reducing a process down to its absolute core activities, improving efficiency and reducing wasted resources in the process. Ultimately, lean systems add value by reducing costs and improving delivery times, while maintaining quality.

However, it's not all plain sailing. One of the biggest criticisms of the lean methods is that the focus on optimising a single activity can often lead to OEMs losing sight of the bigger picture. This scope-creep can mean projects lose direction strategically. As well as this, inaccuracies in lean processes can quickly become magnified across the project and if not managed carefully, a lack of documentation can lead to traceability problems when things go wrong.

Choose your poison
So which is best? Well, in order to establish that, you need to consider three issues; external environment, internal setup and ability to adapt. Take Accutronics, for example. If you look at our external environment, you can see that we operate in many highly regulated, life-critical and extreme environments, designing and manufacturing batteries and chargers for medical and healthcare through to security and defence. For us it's important that we can demonstrate traceability, documentation and thoroughly tested products. At the same time we can only hope to achieve a competitive advantage if we understand the subtle and nuanced demands of our customers.

In the second and third stages, OEMs must ensure that physical resources, infrastructure and human expertise are leveraged in such a way that they can adapt to market changes quickly and smoothly. Whether it's a change in legislation, a new innovation in materials research or technological obsolescence, you must either adapt or die.

Plain sailing
Knowing and abiding by the rules is one thing, mastering them and using them for competitive advantage, is a whole new ball game. With a willingness to invest time and expertise, OEMs can hope to continuously build successful products and services time and time again.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Cyber hacking medical devices

A recent presentation of findings at US hacker conference DerbyCon demonstrated that medical cybercrime is on the rise.

Using a specially designed search engine called Shodan, hackers were able to identify vulnerable hospital networks along with all their connected devices including MRI machines, defibrillators and equipment in radiology and paediatric units.

Even though 68,000 medical systems have already been exposed, I expect this number will continue to rise. The growing trend in the medical technology (MedTech) industry for more portable and wearable medical devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) will render more devices vulnerable.

The problem here is that we have so far only been concerned with the cybersecurity and software based protection of our devices. For those OEMs who design, develop or manufacture their own hardware, it's vital to consider a more holistic, hardware based, approach.

The last thing you want is for your life-critical medical device to be compromised when it's needed most. Built-in algorithmic security, for example, can detect when a fake battery is used with a host medical device. 

Algorithmic security prevents attempts to use counterfeit or copycat batteries, of which there are millions in worldwide circulation that are easily available at the click of a button from grey market sources online. 

By ensuring that software and hardware works harmoniously to protect our medical devices, we can prioritise patient safety in the face of increasingly malicious cyber crime.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Whitepaper addresses medical battery technology

British battery manufacturer Accutronics is making available for download its latest whitepaper, which tackles the issues facing battery design, development and use in the medical and healthcare field. The intention is that it will help Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) better understand the possibilities and limitations of rechargeable battery technology in designing products for the medical sector.

The paper is free to download and aims to inform its readers on three main areas of recent battery design interest. The first is a growing phenomenon dubbed the Apple expectation. It explores the convergence of consumer and professional medical devices and how fitness and health monitoring apps designed by large consumer electronics companies such as Apple and Samsung are impacting on the professional medical industry. 

The second topic looks at digital radiography (DR) and the increasing challenge to design batteries for modern DR applications that still use analogue equipment. This second piece looks at the latest innovations in digital film processing, the essential features of smart batteries, as well as the regulatory and compliance issues of designing, manufacturing and testing medical devices for worldwide distribution. 

Finally, the paper discusses the eHealth revolution, a trend that has witnessed an explosion in the use of smartphones, fitness bands and other wearable technology to monitor acute healthcare conditions in an increasingly ageing population. The piece goes on to look at high profile hospital trials of health apps to monitor patient health, as well as the cost savings the NHS can make from earlier cancer diagnosis.

“We have seen an increasing trend towards smaller, more portable battery solutions in all industries and especially in the medical field,” said Michele Windsor, marketing manager at Accutronics. “With this shift, there has been raised concern about reliable solutions for practitioners in hospitals and other areas where the need for reliable and long-lasting batteries is essential.

“We want to alleviate concerns about battery solutions and ensure that OEMs are informed about the choices they can make so they will not have to rely on inferior, consumer grade batteries.”

To download the new whitepaper for free go to http://bit.ly/HealthcareWP

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Analogue infrastructure needn’t hold you back

Thanks to the digital revolution, technology in both our personal and professional lives is getting smaller and more powerful. For instance, new smart watches have more computing power than the Apollo moon landing space craft! The same applies to medical equipment; hospitals are replacing bulky analogue machines with more svelte, powerful devices. However, the march of digital technology through healthcare facilities is bound by the existing infrastructure, which was developed for analogue solutions, creating unique challenges for battery equipment.
Analogue infrastructure needn’t hold you back

At Accutronics we’re seeing an increase in demand from the medical sector for thinner batteries to be used in new or updated equipment. While advanced technology is a key driver for this, another reason is the fact that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have to design machines that fit into an analogue legacy system.

For instance, in new digital x-ray machines there is only 15mm of space for a battery – the space that was set aside for photographic slides in outdated apparatus. This is because hospitals need new devices to fit into the same space as the old ones. So, development of new technology is being shaped by the infrastructure that has been established for low-tech requirements.

In addition, hospital buildings themselves contribute to space saving needs. While there are modern hospital buildings in the UK, there are also those that were built as far back as the 1800s. Mobile devices and carts have to be designed with manoeuvrability around narrow corridors in mind. Therefore, the components inside modern devices are packed tightly together, leaving no room for large battery packs.

Retrofitting or retrospectively designing systems like this creates interesting challenges when it comes to providing a suitable battery to meet both size and power requirements. It’s frustrating enough when your smartphone battery can’t keep up with your usage, but in the healthcare field interrupted power supplies can cause serious problems.

This means that Accutronics often supplies batteries with very thin section walls, as little as 0.8mm, to allow as much space as possible for the cells. Currently, the size of a battery cell can’t be reduced by all that much without losing power, so in very tight spaces you end up having to compromise the capacity of the battery by using fewer cells.

The key to success is for OEMs to consider the battery earlier in the design process. That’s why Accutronics encourages early engagement for all of its clients. While our bespoke battery solutions can be tailored to almost any situation, the earlier in the design our teams can get involved, the easier it is to ensure optimum performance for requirements.

Accutronics works with its clients to create truly outstanding battery solutions, which provide tangible end user benefits such as low weight, minimal volume and ease of use. This is often achieved via our custom battery and charger design and manufacturing service, Accupro, which integrates seamlessly into OEM device development programmes. Some of our batteries even have more advanced control systems than the Apollo 11, which was about as complex as a modern toaster. It's just our way of staying ahead of the curve!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Batteries and medical device qualification

Rob Phillips, CEO of Accutronics, a leading independent battery design company servicing the medical sector, provides a brief overview of standards and design issues relevant to designing in batteries (and associated battery chargers) for medical devices.
It’s usually impractical for companies other than the largest to employ dedicated battery specialists internally. For many businesses, major battery (and associated charger) designs occur only every several years. Yet battery and the associated charger technology is a complex field that requires investment in continual reskilling in technology, as well as an understanding of multiple standards and legislation. Keeping internal battery specialists on-hand is often uneconomical and also, while Medtech designers generally know medical device standards, in my experience they don’t have the same knowledge of battery or charger standards.
However, whether you engage with a third party battery and charger specialist or not, project managers responsible for specifying the batteries in a medical device (and being able to charge them) will benefit from understanding the basics of the standards involved, and what some of the more common (and expensive) design issues are, so they can be avoided. Let's examine a few top line considerations:

Standards – the fundamentals

All electrical and electronic devices (including batteries and chargers) require certification that they have been tested against a recognised standard for safety when the product is subjected to abnormal or abusive operation conditions. Certification to these safety standards is not a guarantee that the product will continue to function after being subjected to these conditions, but that the product has been proven to not cause injury or damage to personnel or property.

Certification requires that the principal safety components (cells, fuses, enclosure materials etc.) have already been certified to their individual applicable standards. If not, then certification will be considerably more difficult, take longer to complete and incur considerable additional qualification testing.
The type of standard required depends on a variety of factors:

  • Type of product
  • Intended use of the product
  • Market that the product is to be sold into (despite harmonised standards, many countries still only recognise their local standards)
  • Timing of the product placement onto the market (standards are revised after a number of years to reflect product and market changes) 

A fundamental point is that the battery is tested to an appropriate standard for its relationship to the medical device, whereas the medical device is tested to an appropriate standard for its relationship to a patient. The battery is a “component” of the medical device.

For the same reason, a stand-alone battery charger is tested to an appropriate standard for the safe operation by all personnel as a management tool for the battery, and not tested as a management device of the patient.

Standards – Some specifics

Ultimately, an exhaustive discussion of standards related to qualifying batteries in medical devices could fill several very large tomes. For the layman, however, it’s enough to know roughly which standards might affect you. For anything more involved than this, you’ll probably need to seek advice.
The principle battery safety standard is IEC62133 “Secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non-acid electrolytes – Safety requirements for portable sealed secondary cells”. Certain regions such as North America, principally recognise a similar standard; UL2054 “Household and Commercial Batteries”. Taiwan is introducing its own standard (CNS 15364) in 2014.
Although batteries are not classified as medical devices, it’s not unusual to adopt and test for specific elements contained of the Medical Device standard; such as drop-testing or EMC (Electromagnetic compatibility).
Lithium, Lithium-Ion, and Lithium-Polymer batteries are classified in “Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods.” They have the potential to generate a significant amount of heat or catch fire if damaged, improperly packaged or cared for, than do other battery chemistries. In order to be transported, they must be certified to separate transportation safety test standards, and against the requirements of Section 38.3 of the United Nations document ST-SG-AC10-11, “Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods – Manual of Tests and Criteria”.
Battery chargers are tested primarily to IEC60950-1 “Information technology equipment – Safety” (and equivalent UL60950-1). As with batteries there are a few geographic differences: again, Taiwan is introducing its own IT safety standard, CNS 14336-1 in 2014.
The Medical Electrical Equipment standard IEC60601 / UL60601, (also EN60601 in the UK), is a suite of separate tests, each with their own set of documents targeting a specific aspect of a medical device, such as direct patient intervention, something a battery or charger on their own, will never encounter.
We work with each customer to establish the most appropriate certification body, applicable standard(s) and additional testing suitable for the intended use and the intended geographic market(s). Customers sometimes ask for unnecessarily high certification standards (which carry a highly elevated test cost premium) and it has not been unknown for obsolete standards to be requested when that standard has been absorbed and refined into a much newer revision.
We recommend that customers contact us early within the development with their requirements for each product, so that we can establish what is needed, at that time, for that product, for their chosen marketplace and application.

Underspecified / over specified

One of the other most common problems battery consultancies see when designing in to medical devices is over specifying and under specifying.
The early warning signs that you, as a designer of the medical device, may have over specified your battery will be either commercial or physical. Either you will end up surprised by the cost of the battery required to meet your specified device runtime, or just how large or heavy the battery needs to be to meet the brief. Generally the negative effects are down to cost. The latest lightweight battery technology, with highly accurate fuel gauging and advanced protection systems, all have a cost attached to them.
We were once required to deliver a battery to a customer that was able to operate from -30°C to +70°C. Although this gave them a superior product to their competition, it drove their costs up significantly. Competitors could offer a battery at a fraction of the price that worked across 80% of the range, and which was ‘good enough’. If you create a product that can do everything for everybody, you may sell nothing to anyone, because you will be overpriced.
In battery design under specifying, on the other hand, tends to manifest itself in short runtimes or short battery lifetimes. Device developers will produce an initial ‘power budget’ outlining how much power each part of the system, (screen, processor, etc.) will use. Problems most commonly arise when additional components or software are added to the device design that increase the necessary power budget, or when the marketing department insists on a smaller battery, (to fit a certain form factor or increase mobility).

Under specifying on battery lifetime is worth a special mention: You need to consider what the total battery life and chargeability of your device is going to be, not just how much it charges initially, but how consistently it will charge. Even medical customers focus unduly on ‘out of the box’ performance and high initial capacities, as if they were buying a mobile phone rather than a high-end medical device. No-one wants to replace the batteries on a medical device that cost tens of thousands of pounds to purchase. But high initial capacity and long life rarely go hand-in-hand. Sometimes it pays to consider lowering initial performance in return for long-term battery lifetime benefits.

Other common issues

It’s also important for designers not to back themselves into a corner when it comes to cell selection. This is another reasonably common issue.

Before 1995 there were a small number of nickel cadmium and nickel metal hydride cell types, manufactured to IEC standard dimensions. Life was easier back then. Now there are literally hundreds of cell sizes and shapes, and you’re by no means guaranteed that a particular cell will be available in the same dimensions in another five years’ time.

In costly medical devices with operational life cycles of many years it’s important to select cells available from multiple manufacturers, and allow space inside cases for alternative cells if required.

Similarly, it can cause problems down the line if you do not opt for a chemistry-independent charging system. These so-called ‘smart’ charging systems allow batteries to request their own specific charging profile. This is useful if higher-capacity batteries or batteries with different charging profiles become available later.

Lastly, it’s frequently worth trying to keep your battery rating below 100Wh, where possible. Lithium-Ion batteries rated at over 100Wh are subject to quite particular transport restrictions. If you can’t keep battery energy beneath this threshold in your design, consider the use of multiple batteries where each battery is rated at under 100Wh.

Charging forward 

A surprising number of companies underestimate the extent of the ramifications of battery choices for rest of their device design. Batteries are often seen as one of the ‘simpler’ parts of a design, and by many as a ‘commodity’ part. But getting it wrong, or failing to meet key standards, can lead companies to having to rework their entire product design.

For all these reasons designers need to ensure they work with battery experts that take a holistic view of product design, and can provide expert advice with regards to both the relevant standards and the wider effect battery considerations will have on your product design as a whole. Getting the specification nailed down accurately at the start of the project is key, as is ensuring that you’ve guarded your supply chain and support provision for the lifetime of your medical device.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Going for growth - New chairman to accelerate business development

International battery manufacturer Accutronics has appointed Steve Lamb as its new chairman. The addition to the management team will allow the company's managing director, Rob Phillips, to focus his efforts on new business development.

The new chairman will have a general management focus, working alongside managing director Rob Phillips, operations director Mike Allen and financial director Debbie Hodgetts. Prior to joining the Accutronics board of directors, Lamb built up a highly credible reputation as MD, CEO and chairman of a number of other companies, and brings with him an extensive amount of knowledge and expertise.

Lamb began his career in manufacturing before moving into the IT sector with the advent of 3D CAD/CAM systems in the early 1980s. His previous senior roles and directorships have included positions at software development business ECS, GADC Networks and on the International Executive Committee of listed European firm GFI Informatique.

"Our primary objective in appointing Steve is to bring a new dimension to our new business work," explained Accutronics managing director Rob Phillips.

"Among his responsibilities, Steve will chair the monthly management board-meetings, and once Steve is on board I’ll have more time to focus on sales and marketing."

Accutronics specialises in developing smart batteries which offer improved functionality and performance and features such as charge control, accurate fuel gauging and device communication.

The company targets specific product application market sectors, including medical and healthcare, defence and security, industrial and portable electronics markets worldwide.

The independent battery design, development and manufacturing expert currently exports its products to over 30 countries across Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.

"The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) we work with as customer are chosen to match our capabilities as a potential strategic supplier," continued Phillips. "With the support of Steve and the rest of the management team we can strike a better balance between managing the company and growing the business. Our aim is to successfully enter new markets and expand our customer base."

Friday, 15 May 2015

The next-generation of portable power - Inspired Energy boosts the capacity of its standard smart batteries

The industry demand for longer running, smaller and lighter handheld equipment has prompted USA based battery manufacturer Inspired Energy to launch the HD34 range of high capacity Lithium-ion (Li-ion) smart batteries. These batteries use the latest innovations in cell technology to offer outstanding volumetric and gravimetric energy density resulting in longer run-times.

The batteries use the latest Lithium-ion cells with an increased capacity of 3.4Ah to provide customers with a longer runtime.

“The batteries use '18650' cells, which are the workhorses of the rechargeable battery world," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics, the sole distributor for Inspired Energy. “Over the last 25 years Lithium-ion technology has improved and the capacity has steadily increased threefold, resulting in the latest high capacity 3.4Ah version."

Batteries using the 3.4Ah cells are available in two, three, four, six and eight cell configurations covering 7.2V, 10.8V and 14.4V outputs, so original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) developing new products can be confident in finding a platform that meets their mechanical and electrical requirements.

A wide variety of applications make use of the Inspired Energy batteries, including portable laboratory equipment and medical patient monitoring devices, hand-held data terminals, unmanned underwater vehicles, professional and broadcast cameras and satellite communication.

Lithium-ion batteries must be transported as dangerous goods, requiring batteries to be subjected to testing. The companies offering such products for transport are subject to strict packaging, labelling and paperwork requirements. Shipping of Inspired Energy Lithium-ion smart batteries is made easier as they have already been tested for transport and all have an energy density under 100Wh reducing the level of paperwork and packaging.

The new 3.4Ah cells allow batteries and devices to be made smaller and lighter. Some of the older battery models in the range use twelve 2.2Ah cells to provide 95Wh. When using 3.4Ah cells it is possible to realise this energy with just eight cells. This means the batteries can be made around 30% smaller and lighter, a real benefit to OEMs looking to reduce the size and weight of their devices, while still providing maximum runtime to users.

Inspired Energy standard smart batteries can be customised to meet the need of the customer, including changing the artwork to carry own-brand labels and modifying the smart battery data. Accutronics designs and manufactures its own range of batteries and chargers, but is also the sole distributor of the Inspired Energy range of standard batteries, chargers and accessories.

Having worked with Inspired Energy for over 20 years, Accutronics offers multi-currency pricing, online purchasing, European stock holding and fast customer support from its headquarters in the UK. Accutronics technical support service ensures that customers can design an Inspired Energy battery into their new device with total confidence. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The credit card battery goes mini - Battery specialist launches its smallest ever, sub credit-card sized, battery

Global battery manufacturer Accutronics has launched its smallest ever medical battery and charger set. The CC1150 mini credit card battery meets the trend in the medical and instrumentation sectors for the growing use of portable and handheld devices.

Having already built a reputation for delivering the latest in smart battery technology for the medical sector, Accutronics' new mini credit-card battery, the CC1150, occupies around half the footprint of a conventional credit card. Measuring in at 54mm square and 9.5mm high, it fits perfectly into smaller, handheld, devices with ease.

Featuring a state of the art impedance tracking fuel gauge, the CC1150 is equipped with an I²C interface, simplifying its integration into the device. Enhanced circuitry provides further protection against over charge, over discharge, over current and short circuit.

"OEMs making handheld devices will be pleased to hear that, with the CC1150 mini, we've not only halved the size of the standard credit card battery, but we've also packed it with the same powerful features as its predecessor," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics. "At the same time, we've still met the vital IEC 62133 safety requirements for batteries manufactured for use in portable applications, as well as UN38.3 transportation regulations.

"To make it a truly global battery, we've accompanied the CC1150 with a new charger, the CX3050, which works anywhere in the world thanks to its AC power adapter and interchangeable blades. For portable and handheld devices, fast charging is just as important as long battery life, so we designed the CX3050 to charge the CC1150 in under 2.5 hours," concluded Oliver.

Both the battery and the CX3050 charger are available off-the-shelf in black and feature Entellion branding. Users can request custom colours, labels and packaging.

Launched in 2011, Accutronics' range of credit card batteries are targeted to meet the needs of medical and instrumentation original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who need a small, off-the-shelf, Lithium-ion smart battery.

Four years after development, the credit-card range of batteries are now used widely in applications ranging from industrial laser measurement devices to medical infusion pumps. Other innovations such as desktop charging have given users the flexibility to charge batteries outside of their devices.

Top five tips for specifying batteries in medical devices

At Accutronics, we work with the world's leading medical device manufacturers to develop class leading batteries and chargers. I am often asked "what should we consider when specifying a new battery? Well here are my top five tips to get you going.

Tip #1. Select the right chemistry

There are numerous battery technologies to choose from, each with their own specific performance traits. Established chemistry couples such as Nickel Cadmium have now mostly been excluded from the market due to environmental legislation and lead acid batteries are large and heavy making medical devices that use them bulky and cumbersome. Nickel Metal Hydride offers a cost effective solution with higher energy density but issues with heat evolution and a lack of technology investment make it a doubtful choice for the future.

It is Lithium ion which is proving itself to be the reliable chemistry of choice for new medical devices. ‘Lithium ion’ is the umbrella term for a battery technology that uses the intercalation of Lithium ions between a graphitic anode and a layered oxide cathode. The technology provides high energy density, excellent safety, low self-discharge and outstanding cycle life. Through careful selection of cathode formulation and cell construction a wide range of Lithium ion cells have been developed that provide specific performance attributes, such as high discharge capability or high volumetric energy density. 

Tip #2. Size the battery correctly

It is important that the battery inside a medical device is correctly sized for the job it needs to do. Users that think their battery may not power the device for long enough may suffer from run-time anxiety and refuse to use the device on battery power or never move far away from an AC power outlet. Medical device designers should think carefully about their device’s power budget when running on battery power and then factor in the effect of battery ageing, ambient temperature before deciding on a battery energy rating. If space is at a premium and long run-time is required then hot-swappable batteries may be considered to lengthen the operation of a medical device.

Tip #3. Specify a ‘smart battery’

To gain maximum performance from batteries in medical devices they should be made part of the power management system where battery, charger and host device communicate with each other to maximise safety, efficiency and performance. These so called ’smart batteries’ only request charge when they need it, smart batteries charge more efficiently and use less power. Smart batteries maximise the run-time per discharge cycle because they tell their host device when to shut down based on a highly accurate remaining capacity prediction. This method is superior to dumb systems that use a fixed voltage cut-off. Host medical systems that use smart battery technology can provide accurate, meaningful run-time information to users – of vital importance in a medical environment where power failure is not an option.
Smart batteries constantly track their own capacity whether they are being charged, discharged or stored. Their battery fuel gauges use correction factors to adjust for changes in temperature, charge rate and discharge rate together with further modifications as the battery ages. Properly designed and calibrated smart batteries can predict their capacity to within 1% which means that medical device manufacturers can provide users with a device run-time figure they can trust.

Tip #4. Get certified

Medical devices that are certified to IEC60601-1 must have their batteries certified to IEC62133 which is a safety standard for portable batteries. If the product is to be sold in the USA then the FDA also recommend batteries are certified to another safety standard - UL2054. For batteries using Lithium ion cell technology then mandatory transportation testing must be performed to provide the battery is safe for transport. A good battery integrator will manage this certification process seamlessly, ensuring worldwide market compliance. 

Tip #5. Ensure it is reliable and safe.

Without the battery, any portable medical device becomes an expensive liability. It is the battery that is the heart of machine and it must work when needed and never pose a risk to its environment. A good battery integrator will ensure the battery contains ‘nested’ layers of safety that include its cell selection, mechanical design, passive protection and active electronic protection elements.
Battery integrators such as Accutronics that are certified to ISO13485 have the expertise and processes in place to ensure risk assessments, design reviews and performance verification is conducted diligently and thoroughly.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised above or if you want to discuss your plans for a new battery development then please drop me an email.
Neil Oliver
Technical Marketing Manager
Accutronics Ltd


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

MCL205-1201 puts 12V on your Hip

The new MCL205-D1201 is a polycarbonate belt mountable holster for the 7.2V 84Wh NH2057ZD29 battery pack. It allows portable devices to powered for longer from its 12V 60W output which is supplied via a coiled cable terminated in a standard 5.5mm/2.1mm DC plug.

The inclusion of an on-board charger with an input voltage range from 10VDC to 24VDC allows the MCL205-D1201 to charge its battery quickly and easily from a number of different power sources. An AC powered desktop power supply with a 24V output is supplied as standard along with a vehicle cigarette adapter.
The MCL205-1201 also includes an integrated USB charge port that can be used to charge phones, tablets and other USB powered devices.
The regulated 12VDC output is rated at 60Watts continuous. NH2057ZD29 battery packs are sold separately and a soft padded nylon splash proof cover is available as an accessory (part number 906014).

Three versions are available (each with a different AC power cord)

What is included?
(*) A polycarbonate battery holster with a belt clip and an output cable.
(*) A 65W in-line AC:DC power supply with 24VDC output
(*) A 6' (~1.8m) AC cable with a European, American or UK plug (see above)
(*) A cigarette lighter cable for charging the battery from a vehicle.
Technical Marketing Manager

Monday, 30 March 2015

CC3800 Credit Card Battery gains IEC62133:2012 Certification

The Entellion CC3800 Credit Card battery now boasts certification to the latest revision of this safety standard, making it even easier to design into the next generation of portable medical and industrial devices.

"Secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non-acid electrolytes — Safety requirements for portable sealed secondary cells, and for batteries made from them, for use in portable applications IEC62133:2012" supersedes the 1st edition which was published in 2002 and is mandatory for batteries used in many battery powered devices, from medical equipment to test and measurement equipment.
The CC3800 boasts an impressive array of features making it the ideal choice for medical and industrial OEMs wanting an off the shelf battery solution for handheld electronic products.
  • 3.7V high energy density Lithium Ion technology
  • Credit card footprint (54.0mm x 85.6mm)
  • Impedance Tracking fuel gauge with I²C communication
  • Active protection circuitry (OV, UV, OC, SC)
  • Redundant passive over-current protection
  • 7 position Tyco connector interface
  • Tough plastic enclosure
  • IEC62133:2012 (safety) & UN38.3 (transportation) compliant
  • CE marked (EMC/ESD compliance)
  • Also available as a 2300mAh model (9.1mm high CC2300)
  • Customisation to labelling, case colour and firmware possible
The CC3800 is supported by a dedicated desktop charger - the CX6100 which allows charging outside the host product.

For more information about the CC3800 please feel free to drop me an email

Neil Oliver
Technical Marketing Manager


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

30 second charging: boon or bane?

Israeli company StoreDot has developed a new battery that could one day allow a phone to be charged in 30 seconds. It seems too good to be true, so we uncover the technology behind the headlines and explore the long term implications.
Small credit card sized smart battery
Accutronics' smallest battery

By Neil Oliver

It's a daily battle; morning, noon or night, come rain or shine, at home or while travelling, it's one of the most annoying daily occurrences. I am of course referring to that moment when your battery dies.

Well, it seems that this problem may not be around for much longer. Israeli company StoreDot has designed a new biological semiconductor material that has some unique characteristics.

Developed from naturally occurring compounds these ‘quantum dots’ are made up of peptides; the short chains of amino acids that form the building blocks of all proteins. When manipulated in the right conditions, these peptides can naturally grow into a crystalline formation in a tight, intricate structure, where the molecules are less than two nanometres apart.

The resultant quantum dot material, exhibits remarkable properties. Its confined nanocrystalline structure means that it can be excited on frequencies in the visible spectrum and, because it’s comprised of semiconductor materials, it is able to hold electrical charge highly efficiently.

What this means is that the same quantum dot material could eventually be used as the device display, the battery and power unit and the memory and storage module all in one. Just think about that for a second, a single panel material can essentially replace the multiple materials and components of current devices.

StoreDot has only just scratched the surface of this technology. Their quantum dot battery charges from flat to full in less than 30 seconds. However, using the same material as an internal layer in a flexible casing could yield a paper thin device, flexible enough to wrap around a wrist or be used as surface materials on public transport and even used for fully digital, yet biodegradable, newspapers and books.

However, it's important to remember that this innovation, whilst potentially revolutionary, must still undergo rigorous testing challenges to ascertain its behaviour in high and low temperatures, its structural integrity under mechanical strain and degradation over time. The cost of production will need to compete with already well established organic materials such as organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) already used widely by device manufacturers.

So is 30 second charging a boon or a bane? For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), this technology highlights the importance of holistic and integrated design. As we continue to become reliant on wearable and portable medical equipment, the need to match innovative design with reliable, safe and secure battery systems becomes ever more important.

For expert guidance on the best choice of batteries and chargers for your applications please get in touch with sales@accutronics.co.uk for further information.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Standing on the precipice looking down

Have you seen the film Sliding Doors? In the movie, Gwyneth Paltrow's love life and career hinge on one defining moment; whether or not she catches a train. I recently had my own Sliding Doors moment, that illustrated how design for medical devices can easily go in two very different directions.

by Rob Phillips

smart batteries for medical devices
Smart batteries for medical devices
I was recently invited to a supplier day by an OEM, where the plastics, fan motherboard and smart battery providers got together with the design engineers from the client to talk over a new project. I call this type of gathering a precipice meeting; it allows you to work together as a team, standing on the edge of a precipice before the project truly begins.

In the 'bad old days' suppliers in each of those categories were usually pitted against each other, one manufacturer played off against the other, and the purchasing team would try to pick out good ideas from the various proposals.

Today, the modern precipice meeting is smarter and more inclusive, allowing suppliers to prove their worth by creating the most functional solution, not simply the cheapest. The purchasing people are partnered more effectively with the designers, which can only be a positive when it comes to the end product.

Life-critical applications
Medical technology is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and, because medical devices and equipment can be life-critical, they demand designs which are innovative, but also safe and reliable. During the early stage of the design process it's invaluable to share ideas of best practice and discuss the possible pitfalls. The input produced can have a huge impact on the design and its ultimate success.

Design engineers are clued-up when it comes to their product as a whole, but they can't be expected to be an authority on every component of the design. As battery experts we believe that OEMs should not be shackled by commodity batteries and we relish the chance to align ourselves with creative manufacturers. For us, a huge amount of energy and anticipation goes into every project and it's exciting to play our part in delivering a new generation of medical device.

Sharing ideas
Of course, it requires an element of trust between each of the members of the group, because they share their intellectual property, but the end result is a better environment and product for all involved. It's not just the design engineer who comes away with new ideas, having different manufacturers in the room means that you can all gain insights into areas outside your sphere of activity.

Precipice meetings are true Sliding Doors moments. They are an opportunity to test a project and fix the potential problems a long time before manufacturing begins. I'm sure Gwyneth Paltrow and the rest of the team behind the movie would approve.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Lifespan and the Apple expectation

Apple has applied for a patent to build a docking station to charge devices like the iPhone and iPad, which will retract the connector when the "iDevice" is being removed, to prevent damage to both the dock and the item. 

By Neil Oliver 

The move illustrates a trend in the consumer IT environment for improved reliability and increased robustness. However, that trend has been evident in industry for decades. But it isn't necessarily a good thing for the two concepts to become intertwined.

The expectations we should have of a battery for a professional medical application, for instance, would - in a world where the battery or charger is optimised for performance - be very different to those we might have in a consumer environment.

For instance, a medical professional might see the embedded battery in an iPhone or an iPad and be impressed by the sleek, seamless design it provides. As a result, they may well expect the power source in their professional devices to also be embedded.

However, in a medical device, with a product life cycle of ten to fifteen years, an embedded battery would be impractical. Over that kind of lifespan, the battery would have to be replaced five or six times, which would be impractical and costly. In a consumer device like an iPhone, the entire product is likely to have been replaced before the battery fails.

Size requirements 
Just as the aesthetics of an embedded battery might seem attractive at first glance, attempting to reduce the size requirement of a battery by embedding it might also seem like a good idea. This would remove the need for battery housing, thus reducing the space requirement.

However, this can only really be a workable option in a disposable or very short lifespan medical device. In more typical applications, where the device costs tens of thousands of pounds and lasts for more than a decade, it isn't practical for the same reason. A removable, rechargeable battery is the only workable option from a cost and reliability perspective.

Battery lifespan
Battery lifespan can also be a radically different requirement depending on the medical application. In some instances, replacing the battery every year is fine and also what the user expects - from both a practical and financial perspective.

However, if a battery designed for a frequently used application is only capable of 300 cycles, which is to say 300 full charges and 300 full discharges, it would be unlikely to last for even one year. The feedback that most of our OEM partners receive from hospitals is that they expect the battery to last for two to three years.

Most phone batteries will have a lifespan of around 300 cycles. This means that, after a year or two, the user will need to replace the battery or the device. As a manufacturer of batteries for professional applications, it’s crucial to understand the expectation this creates; otherwise you can very easily expose your OEM partner to criticism from the end user. Normally this means advising the OEM to change the expectation of its user community, compromise the power budget in some way or adapt the device itself.

Often, in this situation it is the power budget and thus the battery’s lifetime that suffers. It’s very difficult for an OEM to double the size or weight of a device, to allow for a larger power source for instance, and a good battery manufacturer will understand that.

The irony is that because manufacturers focus on the most obvious demands from the end user, the actual needs of this end user may not get enough consideration. The organisation that has to change the battery every year, and pay for that change, may have been willing to suffer a slight increase in size, in exchange for improved functionality and reduced operating expenditure.

Once an end user such as a hospital, considers the realities of increased cost and maintenance, they may well be very happy for the device to lack the product design brilliance of an iPad, but provide lower maintenance and replacements costs.

Nevertheless, from a personal point of view, I will be the first person to snap up the new i-Device charging and docking station. Like many people in the electronics industry, I'm a technology fan and find both the patent and the product interesting. However, I won’t be changing my view regarding the needs of professional battery applications as a result.

Read more about Accutronics’ work in professional medical battery applications here.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Charging ahead in innovation

~Accutronics celebrates a year of innovation at America's largest medical technology show~

Batteries for medical devices
Smart batteries for medical devices
International battery manufacturer Accutronics will join thousands of medical industry suppliers and
service providers at MD&M West, on February 10-12, 2015 in Anaheim, California, where the British company will showcase the latest products from its Entellion range. Accutronics can be found in Hall E at Booth 412.

The theme of the 2015 conference is a celebration of 30 years of medtech innovation, and this year British manufacturer Accutronics has proven it is more than up for the challenge. During 2014, the independent battery expert launched two new products to add to its range of smart portable power products, both of which will be exhibited at the event.

Most recently, Accutronics introduced the CMX Series, a range of innovative smart batteries and chargers. With the increase in the use of portable medical devices, such as acute ventilators and anaesthesia workstations, the new smart battery fulfils the needs of manufacturers of high powered medical devices.

During the summer the company also introduced the CX6100, an innovative desktop charger for its groundbreaking credit card battery range. The new charger has a rapid charge capability and can be used around the world, thanks to its wall mounted power supply. The credit card battery range provides OEMs with a rechargeable range of Lithium Ion professional batteries for portable and wearable medical devices.

"The medical market is a challenging environment and there's a constant demand on medical OEMs to produce innovative portable devices," explained Rob Phillips, managing director of Accutronics.

"Thanks to our understanding of the market requirements we've been able to develop a range that meets the need for high energy density and high power discharge, without compromising on safety and reliability in life-critical applications."

At the event, the Accutronics team will showcase its skills in the design, development and manufacturing of medical batteries and smart chargers. On display will be the complete Entellion range of products which bridge the gap between standard off-the-shelf products and a custom design with inherent development fees, saving customers time and money. The range can easily be customised with options including product labelling and case colours, software setup and SHA-1 algorithmic security, which prevents counterfeit batteries being used under fraudulent warranty claims.