Alare debuts laser digitizer as first U.S. PACS market entry

Alare debuts laser digitizer as first U.S. PACS market entryCompany also plans to market connectivity, print offeringsYou can add another company to the list of vendors marketing x-ray film digitizers. Alare Systems, a wholly owned

Alare debuts laser digitizer as first U.S. PACS market entry

Company also plans to market connectivity, print offerings

You can add another company to the list of vendors marketing x-ray film digitizers. Alare Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tokyo-based Array Corporation, has received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance for Model 2905, a laser digitizer. The digitizer is the latest in a line of products Array has developed for the healthcare industry, including densitometers, spectrometers, and laser imagers.

The speed and image quality generated by the digitizer differentiate it from other offerings in the marketplace, according to Alare president Thomas Nardozzi. The unit can visualize a 2K x 2K image in approximately 30 seconds, and achieves an optical density of 4.0, according to the company. A 14 x 17-inch film can be scanned in six seconds. It can be equipped with a 100-sheet autofeeder, and can also serve as a DICOM storage class user, said Nardozzi, a PACS industry veteran who moved to Sparta, NJ-based Alare in mid-1998. He recently served as senior product marketing manager at Konica Medical in Wayne, NJ.

Model 2905 has its own user interface, which can operate in Windows 95/98/NT and Macintosh environments, Nardozzi said. A pre-scan feature called ScoutScan allows users to view the image on the display before sending it to the network, ensuring that positioning of the image is accurate. Model 2905 carries an approximate list price of $31,500.

Clinical evaluation of Model 2905 was conducted at the University of Chicago and another luminary site. Alare plans to offer Model 2905 to OEMs, systems integrators, and large medical imaging equipment distributors. A number of distributor agreements have been signed for Model 2905, Nardozzi said, including Associated X-Ray Imaging of Haverhill, MA. Other companies have also signed on, although he declined to identify them.

Alare expects to rely mainly on distributor sales channels for most of its revenues in the future. But the firm has worked directly with several healthcare institutions to build an installed base for referral to future customers. Telemedicine services provider Medical Center of Boston International now uses Model 2905 exclusively for its film digitization needs, and Baptist Healthcare Corporation in Memphis, TN, installed Model 2905 last month. That installation is supported by imaging distributor Diagnostic Imaging of Jacksonville, FL.

The release of Model 2905 occurs at a crucial time in the film digitizer segment. Laser film digitizers are beginning to face challenges to their market position as lower cost CCD-based digitizer offerings continue to improve and low-end computed radiography readers become available. These trends have already begun to play out in the marketplace, with the launch of the ACR-2000 low-cost CR reader from film digitizer market leader Lumisys of Sunnyvale, CA. Lumisys elected to pursue the product in part because of declining long-term prospects for film digitizers.

Another firm, Vidar Systems, initially planned to launch a laser digitizer to complement its CCD-based digitizer line, but decided not to go ahead with those plans because of what the Herndon, VA-based company called the high maintenance required by laser digitizers and the rapidly improving performance of CCD-based digitizers (PNN 6/98). In addition, General Scanning of Watertown, MA, entered the laser digitizer sector in early 1998 with the launch of LD2200 (PNN 5/98).

Finally, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston presented a scientific paper at last year's RSNA meeting concluding that laser digitizers offer no qualitative superiority over CCD-based scanners. Laser digitizers still have their fans in the medical imaging marketplace, however, according to Nardozzi.

"CCD technology has a place in the market, but it's my impression that the U.S. medical community feels more comfortable with laser digitizers for handling diagnostic information," he said.

Alare does plan to offer other PACS peripherals to customers. Parent company Array already sells DICOM modality image acquisition gateways and print servers in the Japanese market, and Alare will be bringing those products to the U.S. upon receipt of FDA clearance. Alare will file its 510(k) application for those offerings shortly and hopes to begin marketing them in the summer, Nardozzi said.