A Breath Actuated Nebuliser
Microcontroller Improves Patient Care for Asthma Sufferers
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Pumps and Compressors
    30 :Computers and Other Information Processing Equipment
    331 Medical and Surgical Equipment
    332 Instruments and Appliances for Measuring, Checking etc

Lifecare Hospital Supplies manufacture and sell 'Jet' nebulisers for the healthcare market. The company has been involved in this market for 15 years, and their main field of expertise lies in plastic injection moulding. The company employs 30 people and has an annual turnover of 4MECU. The industrial sector within which Lifecare Hospital Supplies operates in is Healthcare Products.

The existing product is a mechanical nebuliser that uses compressed air to atomise the drug. This product was successful but suffered from the following drawbacks:

  • Lack of portability (it required a compressed air supply)
  • Generated significant amounts of noise
  • Was not breath activated, that is it delivered a constant 'mist' stream
  • The drug particle size was not ideal for optimum delivery to the lungs.

The aim of this project was to develop a pocket sized ultrasonic nebuliser to improve the delivery of drugs to patients with asthma and other respiratory ailments. The application experiment has resulted in the development of a battery operated hand-held unit which does not require the connection of troublesome cables or gas cylinders. Key features now include :

  • A reduction in drug particle size , to promote more effective 'uptake' within the lung
  • The addition of 'breath actuation' to minimise drug wastage and promote consistent drug delivery.
  • Small size and portability to give patients increased mobility

The application experiment used a microprocessor to control the operation of the nebuliser making it efficient both in drug usage and power consumption. Prior to the experiment, Lifecare had no previous experience of electronics and recruited two electronics engineers to facilitate the acquisition of microcontrollers into the company.

The development cost of the electronics part of the product development work was 39 K Euro to the prototype stage. The project started on the 1st December 1997 and was completed on the 12th February 1999 approximately 14 months later.

The economic benefits to the company are forecast as follows:

  • Projected sales increase for the new nebuliser averaging 20% per annum
  • Entry into new markets such as domestic, for personal use, instead of just hospitals
  • Return on investment of 2,630% over the 5 year life of the new product
  • A payback period of 8.5 months on the development costs.

    Lifecare Hospital Supplies Ltd
    Scotland Road
    Market Harborough
    Leicestershire, LE16 8AX
    United Kingdom.

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided Lifecare Hospital Supplies Ltd. with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
Pontypridd CF37 1DL
United Kingdom