Finding a Cure for COVID-19 with MKS Instruments and Altium 365

Masha Petrova
|  Created: July 10, 2020
Finding a Cure for COVID-19 with MKS Instruments' Mass Spectrometers and Altium 365

As the world grapples with the worst pandemic in over a century, the demands upon the biotech industry have never been more immediate. With such an urgent need for the development of treatments for COVID-19, MKS Instruments has been feeling the heat along with the major industries they support.

For decades, MKS Instruments have been designing and developing the most widely used mass spectrometers for the life sciences industry, as well as a wealth of other essential laboratory equipment. Their technology is essential to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries alike.

MKS Instruments has a proud history of innovation that has shaped the evolution of the key industries they serve. With annual revenues of $180M+ they hold over 2,500 patents, and employ over 500 degreed scientists and engineers. From laboratory to laboratory, more researchers rely on MKS Instruments technologies than any other brand in the world.

MKS Instruments have relied on Altium Designer for schematic capture and PCB layout for years, but with the new sense of urgency, compounded by stay-in-place orders, MKS’s engineering team needed to find a way to work around the clock from anywhere.

Tom McFarland Quote

With Altium 365, the first-ever cloud-based platform for printed circuit board design and realization, MKS can keep up with a frenetic pace with ease. As Todd McFarland, Senior Electrical Designer at MKS Instruments, elaborates, “Right now, being listed as a critical provider for things like DNA sequencing machines has made our work more critical than ever. With all of us working from home, Altium 365 has been a real godsend — the infrastructure has been fantastic.”

Keeping Essential Equipment Operating Smoothly During the Most Desperate Hours

Biopharmaceutical processes have to be incredibly precise and accurate while minimizing the risk of contamination. MKS Instruments electronic thermal mass flow controllers have been paramount to this process.

With hundreds of thousands of these devices in use in labs worldwide, OEM parts are a major focus for MKS Instruments. Some labs even use the same mass spectrometry devices they’ve relied on for decades—and MKS Instruments almost always has replacement components on hand.

As McFarland explains, “There are always concerns across MKS about products going obsolete, so we’re always updating older parts and repairing them. Even our oldest products still perform well, so we’re always doing everything we can to ensure part availability. We’ve used Altium Designer to design a lot of our OEM parts. With Altium 365, we can continue to support our customers without any concerns because everything is just right there, online and ready to access at a moment’s notice.”

Todd McFarlane Quote

Remote Collaboration and Library Organization Made Easy

Altium 365’s cloud-based platform made it easy for McFarland and his team to adopt without a second to spare. “Not everyone on the team was set up to work remotely; some of our engineers didn’t have VPN access or any way to connect to shared devices. Normally, this issue took our IT department anywhere from a week to two weeks to solve. With Altium 365, no one missed a beat.”

The addition of Concord Pro, easily accessible via the cloud-based Altium 365 platform, has made collaboration between electrical and mechanical engineers much easier, as well. “We moved to Concord Pro to empower more collaboration with our mechanical engineers. Speed of development meant our engineers were creating multiple parts for the same product. With Concord Pro on Altium 365, we can collaborate with mechanical engineers at any point during the PCB design stage and easily access components all in one place,” McFarland explains.

The platform also eliminated server downtime, a pervasive issue McFarland and his colleagues routinely faced on the job. As he explains, “We were always having problems maintaining our server. Random crashes are pretty common, so when I first heard about the cloud-based Altium 365, I saw a fast, effective solution. The adoption rate has been great—all of our engineers use it now.”

With Altium 365, MKS Instruments can continue to support their customers worldwide without downtime or any disruptions to their workflow processes. For their customers working steadfastly to find a cure for COVID-19, it means the equipment they rely on will continue to perform as expected—and that’s good news for the entire world.

About Author

About Author

Masha Petrova is a VP of Brand Marketing at Altium.  She has a passion for bridging the communication gap between business leaders, developers and customers. After receiving her PhD in aerospace engineering from UC San Diego, she spent 15+ years in hi tech and engineering software industries.

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