The role of technology in the medical industry

4-Apr-2022

Dr Suk Kinch, Principal Design and Development Engineer at UK-based global engineering technologies company, Renishaw, has been working with its neurological products and technologies for the last 11 years. Following her selection as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering in 2021, she spoke to Manufacturing Chemist about her experiences in the medical devices industry during her career

MC: What are the major changes you have seen during your career?

SK: The most significant change has been the attitude towards technology in hospitals. When I first started in orthopaedics, surgeons were working to an accuracy of within 10 mm. Now, owing to advances in medical imaging and developments in manufacturing, we’re now discussing placement accuracies that are closer to a millimetre.

In my experience, senior surgeons can be resistant to using robots or newer technologies during neurosurgery because they are more familiar with the stereotactic head frame that they’ve used throughout their whole career. Junior and early adopter surgeons are changing the way surgery is done because they are more open to using new technologies, such as touchscreens and robots.

These surgeons have been exposed to more advanced technologies during their training and daily lives, so are more willing to embrace and develop their procedures with them to achieve higher levels of efficiency and repeatability.

MC: What specific technological advancements have impacted the industry the most?

SK: On a mechanical level, advancements in additive manufacturing (3D printing) and precision engineering, such as more accurate and rapid measurements, have caused a shift towards better medical devices. For example, being able to better control tolerances and surface finishes on devices correlates with a likelihood of better integration with the body … and better integration often means greater device longevity.

With additive manufacturing, manufacturers can also work with medical professionals to design and create devices that are tailored towards the patient, which will ultimately improve safety and performance.

MC: What are the most interesting projects you have worked on during your career?

SK: One of the most impactful projects I have worked on, and continue to do so, is the neuroinfuse drug delivery system that infuses therapeutics directly into the brain (with the option of a permanent titanium port implanted into the skull when repeated infusions are required). This is something that’s very exciting to be involved with because it opens up new avenues of treatment development for neurological conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

MC: What are the future developments that you think the industry will see?

SK: People are becoming more involved in their personal health with the introduction of wearable devices, such as heart rate monitors and biosensors in general. This will continue to develop and begin to blur the lines between what healthcare options are available at home and in hospital, allowing for a more personalised approach to healthcare.

As the wearable device industry expands and becomes more integrated into the medical industry, device regulations will impact the sector more and help to guide innovation and patient safety.

MC: What is your advice to women who are considering a career in engineering?

SK: Engineering can change society and make significant differences to people’s lives. I would encourage any young person, especially girls and young women, to consider engineering as it can offer such a wide variety of career choices, from neuroscience to rocket science.

Taking part in educational outreach programmes at school, putting yourself forward for work experience or extracurricular science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities, will help children to find the joy in STEM and understand how this passion can be applied to their future careers.

Companies