Traditionally, diagnostic ultrasound was a hotbed of competition, characterized by brutal marketing battles among the small and midsize companies that dominated this sector. So
Traditionally, diagnostic ultrasound was a hotbed of competition, characterized by brutal marketing battles among the small and midsize companies that dominated this sector. So brisk was the pace of development that companies hardly had time to reap even a meager return on their R&D investments before launching some new advance or platform. This game has changed, however, with the gobbling of smaller companies by industry giants. The most recent consolidation was completed in midsummer when Philips took over Agilent¹s Healthcare Solutions Group.
The names of competing firms have changed radically, and marketing and distribution arms have expanded. R&D has changed as well but seems as prolific as ever. GE executives, for example, called the 2001 RSNA meeting one of its best ever in terms of showing new products.
Helping to drive this process is the ability of ultrasound engineers to leverage expertise and capabilities outside their own labs, drawing from other modalities and even other industries. The best ideas and technologies of one-time competitors are coming together under one roof. Siemens¹ development of the Antares system, with ergonomic design optimized for productivity and operator ease of use, demonstrates the first product of the collaboration of teams formerly operating separately at Siemens and Acuson.
ADI is exploring a dynamic, real-time imaging technique using ³through wave² ultrasound technology to generate detailed information about soft tissue. Clinical opportunities are expected in breast and orthopedic imaging.
Best known as a provider of value-oriented ob/gyn equipment, Aloka has been steadily ratcheting up its product offerings.
Through its various subsidiaries, Analogic provides components and systems for use in several different modalities. B-K Medical makes ultrasound equipment.
GE Medical Systems
The multimodality vendor is a relative latecomer to the high-end of diagnostic ultrasound. GE was content to dabble in the ob/gyn marketplace until the 1993 RSNA meeting, when the company released its Logiq 700. That flagship platform was finally eclipsed this fall when GE introduced its next generation of products.
Hitachi Medical Corporation of America
Hitachi offers a wide range of EUB ultrasound systems. These include the 405 Plus, the 500, the 2000, the 525 CFA, and the 6000 series. The 405 is portable, the 500 is a compact mobile black-and-white unit, the 2000 is an advanced black-and-white system at a midlevel price, and the 525 CFA is a color Doppler system.
The company, which is owned by French firm Amphora, left the U.S. market several years ago because of a mismatch between its product line and the marketplace. It returned this last spring with a midrange color-flow system.
Korea-based Medison is a long-time advocate and developer of 3D imaging, while selling reliable, low-cost black-and-white scanners directly to OEMs. Some five years ago, Medison acquired Austria-based Kretztechnik, building on that company¹s 3D technologies. The firm this year sold its stake in Kretztechnik to GE but maintained control of key 3D-processing technologies.
Philips Medical Systems
The Dutch multimodality firm entered the premium end of ultrasound in 1998 with its acquisition of ATL, then broadened its offerings this year by finalizing the purchase of Agilent HSG. The company is hoping to capitalize in ultrasound using engineering capabilities found outside this area.
Shimadzu Medical Systems
Shimadzu products reflect an uncommon simplicity and efficiency. Ultrasound products are relatively low cost, yet they incorporate advanced features and digital technology.
Siemens Medical Systems
A year ago the purchase of Acuson transformed Siemens into one of the world¹s largest ultrasound vendors. Siemens had begun moving to this point years earlier, establishing an in-house ultrasound capability that created world-class scanners.
ATL spin-off SonoSite has become a premier advocate of handheld ultrasound scanners.
This spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology¹s Lincoln Laboratory was formed in 1994. Development of the handheld Terason 2000 began as part of a military R&D contract.
Toshiba America Medical Systems
A decade ago, Toshiba was the only multimodality vendor with a strong presence in ultrasound. Thanks largely to its dominant position in Japan, the parent company held claim to worldwide leadership in this segment. It remains a major shareholder in the global ultrasound marketplace, despite the corporate changes that have occurred over the past several years.
The company designs and manufactures ultrasound equipment specifically for breast evaluation. The scanners provide high-resolution 2D and color Doppler imaging, as well as high-frequency, wide-aperture transducers.