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Innovative Watlow cartridge heater finds neo-natal incubator application
St. Louis, Missouri, USA: – Advanced cartridge heaters from world-leading Industrial heating solutions provider Watlow are being adopted to play a vital role in saving the lives of prematurely born infants.
Watlow is working with a German medical devices company to adapt its FIREROD cartridge heaters for use in neo-natal intensive units, keeping the body temperature of premature babies to life-sustaining levels.
The project has involved adapting the product to a specific medical application and demonstrates how Watlow’s engineering and manufacturing expertise can be a key differentiator for customers.
Maintaining the core body temperature of premature infants is one of the key challenges in neo-natal care. Premature babies normally have minimal body fat and can struggle to regulate their own temperature. Infants can lose body heat four times faster than adults, and if a baby’s skin temperature drops just one degree, the baby’s oxygen use can increase by 10 percent.
A well-known company based in Germany, has been working closely with Watlow for about four years to develop a new line of infant incubators that provides the constant temperature these small babies require. The client company manufactures medical devices for hospitals as well as safety products for emergency services, law enforcement, mining and industry.
Replacing ceramic heaters
The company’s Babyleo TN500 IncuWarmer brings new technology to improve care for premature infants, including substituting cartridge heaters for more fragile ceramic ones.
“In a former device, they used a ceramic heater in the reflector,” said Gabriel Lupu, Watlow’s key account manager in Germany. “The infant beds are rolled around a lot and when they hit doorways, it would shake the bed and break the ceramic heater. Obviously, they don’t want pieces of the heater to fall on the babies.”
The new incubator provides multiple sources of heat to keep each baby’s temperature constant. The manufacturer approached Watlow’s former site in Kronau, Germany to provide a pair of Metric FIREROD® cartridge heaters for each reflector over the infant to provide heat when the lid of the incubator is opened for access to the baby. The work has since been shifted to Watlow in St. Louis where development has continued during several rounds of testing.
Laser blackening for radiant heat
The reflector uses radiant heat to provide a constant 37 degrees Celsius temperature for the infant. In the warmup stage of the device, the heaters ramp up to 600°C. To ensure efficient heat transfer to the infant, the surface of the FIREROD heaters is specially blackened to improve their emissivity, since black surfaces are superior for radiant heat transfer over shiny metallic ones.
A St. Louis company uses a laser process to blacken the heaters, avoiding any use of paint or coatings that could flake off above babies over time. Additionally, parts are only shipped to Germany once all the work on the heaters is completed in St. Louis. During reliability testing, engineers also changed the pin wire inside the cartridge heaters to prolong the life of the product.
The customer also had a requirement for the heaters to have low leakage current. The standard Metric FIREROD has an 8 mm core inside a 10 mm sheath. Reducing the diameter of the ceramic wind core increased the distance between the element wire and the metal sheath, allowing room for more ceramic fill material to increase the thickness of the dielectric layer. That in turn reduces the linkage current.
“Testing is very crucial in this application because the equipment is all about helping small babies,” said Gabriel Lupu.
“Our client has other suppliers for cartridge heaters, but none of them could meet this high-performance application. Watlow has shown through the testing and development that we have the engineering team and the manufacturing capability to make it happen,” he added.
Watlow is a global industrial technology company that uses its world-class engineering expertise, advanced thermal systems and manufacturing excellence to enrich everyday life.
Many of the world’s leading companies leverage Watlow’s technologies in vital applications such as semiconductor processing, environmentally-friendly energy solutions and lifesaving medical and clinical equipment, to name a few.
Founded in 1922, Watlow’s culture is driven by its mission of “Enriching Lives Through Inspired Innovation,” enabling the company to deliver high-impact solutions that improve its customers’ competitive advantage.
Learn more at: https://www.watlow.com/