X-Ray in the Digital Age

Tue, 02/04/2014 - 2:10pm
Stephen Holloway, MDT Editorial Advisory Board Member

Stephen HollowayAs the relentless dawn of the “digital age” builds momentum, new opportunities for medical component suppliers are emerging. One area that is already embracing the new age is the $10 billion medical X-ray market, where digital X-ray systems have been on available for over a decade.

However, it is only recently that digital X-ray has become a significant volume market. Specialist, higher-value system markets such as interventional and mammography X-ray already boast digital unit shipments above 50% of annual sales. Declining prices and clear user advantages of digital X-ray is also driving the large volume general radiography and dental/vet markets to catch up. 

While the sudden surge for digital technology has driven innovation, it has also posed challenges for component suppliers, particularly with the unique needs of the medical application. For example, front-end A/D converter solutions require specific characteristics. High channel number, minimal signal latency, low power dissipation and small size are all required as the market moves to more mobile wireless, battery powered digital detectors. But it is also not just the X-ray signal converter that offers opportunity. Power management, display, processor and wireless sub-systems are also undergoing significant changes, albeit within the strict guidelines of medical regulation. 

In many sectors, change and digitalization is a slow, painful process. Initial demand was admittedly stifled by high systems cost and the challenging economic climate. However, we may be reaching the tipping point. A challenging first decade allowed user and suppliers to iron-out issues and thoroughly test digital X-ray. The newest generation of systems are smarter, more efficient, more cost-effective and most importantly, driving demand for analogue system replacement.

The traditional vinegar whiff and printer whir of the analogue X-ray radiography processing room may soon be but a distant memory.

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