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ATL picks Aspect for camera supply

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ATL this month began shipping ultrasound scanners armed with AspectElectronics cameras, following a sole-source supplier agreementinked between the companies. The deal is a vindication for Aspect,which has carved out a medical imaging niche for its

ATL this month began shipping ultrasound scanners armed with AspectElectronics cameras, following a sole-source supplier agreementinked between the companies. The deal is a vindication for Aspect,which has carved out a medical imaging niche for its multiformatcameras even as demand for CRT-based camera technology is erodedby more advanced laser printers.

Aspect, of Auburn, CA, won the ATL contract after the Bothell,WA, scanner vendor conducted a rigorous evaluation of productsfrom several camera suppliers, including Aspect, InternationalImaging Electronics and Agfa Matrix. ATL's previous agreementwas with Agfa Matrix for the company's 1010 multiformat camera.That line has since been discontinued, according to an Agfa spokesperson.

Camera reliability had been a problem for ATL in the past,and the company was looking for a product that would reduce scannerdowntime.

ATL found Aspect's Mini-Imager to be the most reliable andeasiest to use of the cameras it tested, according to Steve Anderson,product manager.

"We put it through some thorough verification testing,we did clinicals with customers, and we found that Aspect outperformedall the other cameras on the market," Anderson said.

The Mini-Imager, released last year, is a six-on-one black-and-whitecamera developed specifically for ultrasound applications. Thecamera is compact, reliable and easy to service, according toDon Roelands, corporate development manager for Aspect.

Contracts such as the ATL deal are vital for Aspect, whichrelies solely on OEM agreements for sales. Aspect's other customersinclude Philips, Diasonics, Siemens Quantum and Acoustic Imaging.

Aspect was founded in 1973 as a gray-scale monitor manufacturer.The privately held company branched into multiformat cameras inthe 1980s.

The company introduced its Color Plus camera series in 1988and its Digital Formatter in 1991. The latter combines digital,nonarchival handling of medical images with image enhancementfeatures and hard-copy output.

The company has not developed a laser printer product, accordingto Roelands. As a result, Aspect must operate on the cutting edgeof CRT technology to stay successful in a market that has saggeddue to the image quality and networking ability of laser printers.

But Roelands sees a continuing need for multiformat cameras,despite the popularity of laser printers.

"In many applications a laser printer isn't practicalin small-to-medium hospitals," Roelands said. "To tryto hook up a laser for one or two ultrasound machines is not practicalconsidering the cost of the laser. Ultrasound needs compact, portablecameras. I see that continuing for the next five to seven years."

ATL's Anderson estimates that about 40% of its scanner ordersare shipped with multiformat cameras.

"There's still interest and a need for traditional CRT-basedcameras," he said.

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