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Footswitch/joystick controller

17 October 2014

An important part of its switching and sensing solutions product range, Herga Technology designs and supplies hand and foot controls for medical equipment applications. Single and multi-pedal switch control solutions cover contact and non-contact electric switching as well as pressure and vacuum switching technologies.

For many medical applications, Herga is able to call upon its IEC/UL 60601 approval status to supply what it terms as ‘standard’ products, with a wide choice of selectable feature options covering the operating specification of the device as well as its styling and aesthetics.

When standard products are not adaptable, Herga provides a custom design service where its engineers work closely with the customer as strategic partners to provide competitively priced OEM solutions.

These devices aim to meet and exceed the required operational and environmental specification whilst embracing the visual and ergonomic elements of the medical manufacturer’s product styling, which are often equally essential design objectives. For some applications, the ergonomic use and even the way that the user operates the device can drive the design. One such application example is the 8-way footswitch/joystick controller supplied to the global medical and optical equipment manufacturer, Leica Microsystems, as an innovative option for its M220 F12 routine ophthalmic surgery microscope.

The M220 F12 microscope provides high quality optics at reasonable cost and is the entry level model of a modular range that offers ophthalmic surgeons the enabling technology to perform very complex eye operations. A version of the M220 F12 that includes the Herga footswitch/joystick is in wide use in India as part of a large-scale government programme for low-cost cataract surgery. The programme, which is conducted throughout the country by mobile specialist teams that travel to remote rural areas, aims to provide this blindness reversing procedure for hundreds of thousands of individuals each year.

Whilst cost considerations are important factors, the patient throughput and success rate is critical - and for such work the speed and quality of each operation relies upon an excellent microscope system. The operation throughput rate is also optimised with the use of the Herga-designed electric footswitch/joystick which includes an integral joystick that is actually operated by the surgeon adjusting the X and Y positions of the microscope by gripping the joystick between his toes. This cost and time effective one-man operation involves remotely focussing and fine positioning the microscope over the patient’s eye by jogging each axis into position with a combination of push switches and ‘on-off’ joystick switches for each direction. The footswitch/joystick design also includes small raised area to support the surgeon’s heel whilst he operates the joystick.

The low profile and fully sealed IPx8 footswitch/joystick is able to withstand the rigours of portable use in the harsh weather extremes found throughout Asia as well as provide the consistent sensitivity required for the ophthalmic surgeon. To ensure the IEC/UL 60601 quality specified for this demanding application, each unit is fully encapsulated after rigorous electrical testing and individually pressure tested before despatch.