Developing medical devices takes a lot of time: large parts of the control systems can be designed and tested only once the hardware is ready. Using the hardware-in-the-loop method, which Fraunhofer researchers have transferred from automotive engineering to medical products, development times and costs can be slashed by up to 50 percent.
Beat by beat, the heart pumps blood through the arteries. In some people, however, the heart is too weak to supply the body with enough oxygen and nutrients, a condition often referred to as myocardial insufficiency or heart failure. A heart pump implanted in the body can help, although the control system that gives the pump the relevant commands must work very precisely.
When developing medical devices such as heart pumps, engineers usually proceed one step after the next (serial development). They first develop the hardware: in this case, the heart pump. Only much later can they complete development of the control software, combine it with the hardware, and test it manually.
Researchers from the Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA are speeding up this drawn-out process. “Using the hardware-in-the-loop method, we reduce both development times and development costs by up to 50 percent,” says Jonathan Schächtele, who is a scientist in the project group.