Agfa invests for future with digital radiography

July 5, 2000

Agfa passed up the opportunity to take a chance on digital radiography a year ago, but now the Belgium-based manufacturer of analog film, PACS, and CR will add Canon’s DR thorax system to its family of products.The company is hoping to please

Agfa passed up the opportunity to take a chance on digital radiography a year ago, but now the Belgium-based manufacturer of analog film, PACS, and CR will add Canon’s DR thorax system to its family of products.

The company is hoping to please current customers and eventually reach new ones.

Industry analysts, medical imaging companies, and healthcare providers point out that DR’s benefits include rapid access to images, fewer retakes, and increased productivity over standard x-ray.

Agfa Medical Imaging managing director John Glass said Canon’s technology and the Canon system’s speed, price, and life cycle outshone other brands when his company shopped for a DR system to which it wanted to attach the Agfa label.

Agfa has a strong position in the analog film industry, according to Glass, and now customers want more.

“We want to satisfy our customers first,” he said.

The open-ended agreement with Canon will last at least three years.

“But we expect it to go a long time,” Glass said.

The Agfa DR-Thorax system may be the first of several Canon DR products Agfa will add to its line, Glass said. Customers who buy the DR-Thorax system under the Agfa label will be able to integrate it with Agfa’s Impax PACS or connect it to printers.

Canon’s DR systems have been installed at the University of California, San Francisco; the Cleveland Clinic Foundation; and sites in Germany and England.

When Agfa bought Sterling Diagnostics last year, the company passed up Sterling’s subsidiary, Direct Radiography Corp. (SCAN 11/10/99). At the time of the acquisition, DRC was the only medical imaging company offering a fully integrated direct-to-digital radiographic system, the iiRAD DR1000C Digital Chest System. The company was also on the brink of introducing iiRAD DR 1000, a general radiographic system based on DirectRay technology. DRC was eventually sold to Hologic.

“We knew the trend in CR, but we didn’t know (where the trend was) in DR,” Glass said about the decision not to go with DRC. “Now we have a better impression of where DR is going,” he said.

Originally, people in the industry were skeptical of DR because of its exorbitant cost. Some DR price tags were as much as three times higher than those for comparable analog equipment (SCAN 1/12/00).

Digital Radiography Corp. CEO Tom Umbel said his company is doing well since its separation from Sterling. DRC will ship 50 to 100 systems over the next year, and its backlog is worth $8 million. In addition, the company has placed 200 detectors and 30 systems worldwide.

DRC has three channels of business. It markets its detectors as fully integrated Hologic radiographic systems, as digital image capture upgrades for existing x-ray equipment sold through distributors, and as a component for OEMs. Newly signed distributors include North American Imaging of California and MedAssets Exchange of Illinois. At last year’s RSNA meeting, Hologic and DRC introduced the Epex and Radex direct digital general radiography systems (SCAN 1/12/00).

DRC will withstand competition because the company’s technology eliminates the light scatter commonly found in standard x-ray and computed radiography, Umbel said.

“We are always going to have an advantage over the competition because of that,” he said.

Jim Culley, DRC’s marketing director, said the company’s use of amorphous selenium flat-panel detectors gives it an edge over other DR manufacturers. Canon’s DR systems combine gadolinium oxysulfide and an amorphous silicon flat-panel detector.