April 2014


Health-giving robots

The quality of IECQ Certification helps advance the health sector

Aliyah Esmail

The vision of the future sees robots doing a number of things that humans don’t want to do, such as vacuuming. Though the use of artificial intelligence is not yet widespread, robots are moving into sectors that seemed unlikely even a decade ago; for example, assisting in surgical procedures. IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, helps to ensure the reliability of components used in any robots that care for us.

Robots in the world

In the 1940s and early 1950s Isaac Asimov wrote a number of short stories that would later be compiled into a collection called I, Robot. These stories portrayed robots with intelligence and the ability to reason, though they had to adhere to the Three Laws of Robotics, which protected people and the robots themselves.


Though the world has not yet come to the point where robots could take over, they are now able to help with nearly 47% of jobs in the American labour market, details a report by Bloomberg. One of the jobs that has been shown to be performed more efficiently when assisted by robots is surgery.

Tools of the trade

It may sound a bit unlikely but some instruments in the surgeon’s tool box have seen little change in form since they were created in the 1930s. While these tools do the job required of them, today there are new tools that can help patients recover faster or change the way in which operations are performed.

Matters of the heart

When the surgeon tells a family that their loved one needs to have their chest cavity opened up, it is a frightening prospect. There are two ways for a doctor to work on the heart: an incision can be made between two ribs or the sternum can be sawed open. Both require the use of a hand cranked mechanical jack to spread the ribs or the sternum. Even though bones are pretty flexible, a hand cranked thoracic retractor is likely to cause rib fractures. This problem is generally caused by the rate of movement of the spreader.


One solution to this has been the development of a hand-held, robotic rib spreader with sensors that can detect when bone fibres begin to break down. This information is conveyed to the tool which can then adapt its rate of movement.


In other instances, it may be possible to have robotically-assisted minimally invasive mitral-valve repair surgery as a few hospitals in America have started doing. This procedure involves having the surgeon sit at a console from which he controls four robotic arms. The robotic arms make a few incisions into the sides of the chest instead of having an open chest operation. The hope is that patients who have closed chest procedures will have reduced scarring and blood loss and recover more quickly.

Other treatments now available

Robotic assistance can also be employed in surgical procedures for patients undergoing colorectal care. This allows doctors to perform laparoscopic surgery with greater precision and control than traditional surgery. Robotic surgery can be used for colon resections, rectal prolapse repair, bowel cancer treatment and other pelvic procedures.

IEC ensures quality and reliability of electronic components…

The robotics and electronics used in the health care sectors can rely on IEC International Standards to help ensure that the design and manufacture of parts meet the strictest requirements and are widely used by the electronics industry.


These standards, together with IECQ, offer manufacturers, suppliers, hospitals and patients a unique solution, a one-stop shop that provides specifications for the design of products that can then be tested and certified by IECQ.


IECQ ensures the quality and reliability of all electronic components. It also monitors and controls the use of hazardous substances in electronic components and of materials used in equipment. It provides assessment and certification of electrostatic discharge (ESD) control programmes at facilities that handle electrical or electronic parts, assemblies and equipment susceptible to damage from electrostatic discharges.

…and opens doors to global markets

Manufacturers using electronic components and semiconductors or processes related to electronic components covered by IECQ certification have the assurance that their products will perform as designed. Certification also removes the need for multiple second party prolonged performance testing of componentry and sub-assemblies. IECQ certification is a passport to the world.


  • With the surgeon at the console and the robotic arms working on the patient, hopefully recovery will be quick (Photo: da Vinci Si System)
  • Surprisingly, little has changed in the surgeon's tool box in decades
  • With robotic assistance, the hope is that minimally invasive treatments will have reduced scarring, blood loss and quicker recovery times (Photo: da Vinci Si System)


IEC e-tech

Medical equipment

April 2014

[full edition]

IEC e-tech April 2014


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