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Dating and Leak Testing

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 2:36pm
Joe Pustka, Director of Global Leak Testing Applications Engineering, USON

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Dating and leak testing—how could these possibly be related?

Whether you are single or married, you no doubt know someone or are someone who has tried to find a date in today’s world—on the Internet, in a bar, church social, or a favorite cousin’s dinner table. It doesn’t take long for most to realize they have the makings of a great match. Realizing that a match is less than ideal may be instantaneous or, in less fortunate cases, take a longer period of time.

I guess my title could be nicknamed “matchmaker” if I were so inclined—which I am NOT. That said, it does occur to me that mismatches of leak testing equipment to medical device applications seem to follow that same pattern.

For example, we get a call from someone who has been steered toward a method of dry air leak testing whom we can tell in an instant has been dealing with an instrument vendor that specializes in a single flavor leak test modality. It only takes a very brief chat to spot the mismatch because the laws of physics combined with an understanding of real test cycle times certainly would not have put that particular leak test method on the short list to consider. When you have a complete product offering that covers all dry air leak test methods and many single models that, in themselves, have options for all methods, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the selection you propose will be the best and will deliver the benefits the customer wants. I imagine having a job that is anything less would not be much fun, to say the least.

As we’ve discussed in a prior MDT article, “5 Factors to Identifying the Best Leak Tester for You,” the path to finding a best match leak tester for a given application has preliminary steps that are quite straightforward. One needs to know the physical parameters, such as internal parts volumes, operating pressures, details about how a device will function, and in what type of environment it will be built. Ultimately however, the details of complete optimized leak detection solutions hinges in large part on the knowledgebase and how nuanced an understanding of all leak test modalities an applications engineer brings to bear on selecting and configuring a leak test system.

And those seemingly good matches that, in the long term, end up being less than optimal? That is increasingly a concern because of the rapid pace of medical device design and innovation. The probability that your device designs today will be the same in ten, five, or even two years gets lower with each year. That means that the gage of the leak tester you use today (i.e., the pressure range where it is calibrated for optimal sensitivity and fastest test cycle times) may be obsolete in your newer product design iterations. We see this more and more and it’s one reason why we advocate that all instrumentation developers similarly look to develop more versatile technology that can accommodate medical device designs that are not yet on the drawing board. With leak testing, it means having models that can do both synchronous and asynchronous testing as well as single or multi-channel. Additionally, the unit should be able to switch leak test methods with a simple reconfiguration.

As your would-be matchmaker, let me give it to you straight—don’t you want a match with a leak tester that’s meant to endure the tests of time?

It’s not just with leak detection instrumentation—whether pressure decay testers, mass flow, or any dry air leak test modality for leak testing. If you are making any capital equipment investment pay attention to the versatility of the various options in the marketplace. Make sure that what you buy will work just as well when you do re-invent the wheel.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the medical device industry these past decades, it’s that you will re-invent that wheel.

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