Metrology, which is the area of science devoted to various types of measurements, has been around for thousands of years. First recognized as part of the Egyptian culture in 2900 B.C., it has evolved over the centuries. Used in all aspects of modern life, metrology plays a significant role in science, technology, and industrial applications. However, it is perhaps most important to the field of medicine. As to the role metrology plays in the medical field, there are in fact many roles in which it is used on a daily basis.
While there are countless devices used by humans each day that require precision, accuracy, and reliability, there is little doubt medical devices need these aspects perhaps more than anything else in existence. Though the medical industry shares many commonalities with other manufacturing industries, it is unique in that the inspection rates for these devices are usually much higher and far more strict, as per regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Due to their being so little room for error, metrology is relied upon from the time a concept is developed for a medical device until the finished product is ready to be used by doctors and patients.
Non-Contact Inspection Methods
Like any manufacturing industry, medical device companies are always seeking ways to streamline the process and reduce costs without sacrificing quality. As metrology has evolved through the years, the result has been the development of many new and innovative non-contact inspection methods that can accomplish many of these goals. Examples of these methods include white light technology and blue light lasers, both of which incorporate state-of-the-art sensors and systems that can measure components used in robotic surgical equipment as well as prosthetic devices.
Whether it is a prosthetic limb, insulin pump, or perhaps a pacemaker that will be implanted within a patient’s body, medical manufacturers usually require materials that are of higher-quality and grade than those used in many other industrial environments. To ensure the materials used in medical devices are of the highest quality, metrology is used in various ways. One of the most important is in x-ray-based microscopes that allow scientists and engineers to determine not only the quantity and size of certain particles on medical devices, but also lets them examine the 3-D structural characterization of the device. Especially useful for examining medical devices that have numerous small and complex moving parts, such as inhalers and epinephrine injectors, metrology makes the development of these devices possible.
Reducing Injuries and Deaths
Since metrology allows for an internationally-recognized set of standards and measurements, it has played a large part in helping to reduce injuries and deaths of individuals who have been sick with various conditions. By helping to improve efficiency and reliability in medical devices of all types, metrology has been key in the development of MRI equipment, CT scans, and other related devices that measure the human body.
Testing and Functionality
When medical devices of all types are manufactured, much time is spent testing them for quality, durability, accuracy, and functionality. By using many different types of standards and measurements, the quality control and inspection process of a manufacturer can be greatly strengthened, helping its products to be more reliable and thus sought-after by doctors and hospitals. As a result, manufacturers can determine early on in the design process if the parts used in the equipment meet or exceed the requirements of regulators and make the devices suitable for use with patients.
Though a very complex field that has many different subdivisions, metrology is nevertheless credited with playing a major role in the continuation of technological advancements. From its ability to let manufacturers perform complex data analysis throughout the design and manufacturing process to increasing the ability of mechanical and design engineers to create products that are accurate and reliable, metrology is a key component of today’s fascinating world of medicine.