CR primes market for boom coming soon in digital x-ray

May 1, 2007

One of the world's major suppliers of flat-panel x-ray detectors will boost its manufacturing capacity 40% this year. By the end of the decade, Trixell-the French joint venture among Siemens, Philips, and Thales-expects to double its current capacity.

One of the world's major suppliers of flat-panel x-ray detectors will boost its manufacturing capacity 40% this year. By the end of the decade, Trixell-the French joint venture among Siemens, Philips, and Thales-expects to double its current capacity.

Trixell expects to boost its annual run rate this year from 5000 to 7000 detectors, according to Paul Maisonnier, Thales' vice president of marketing, sales, and strategy. He predicts that annual capacity could rise to 10,000 within two years.

"We are surprised by the growth of the market," he said. "We are seeing more and more companies coming to get this key component."

Feeding this trend has been a rapidly growing interest in digital radiography in the U.S, according to data collected by IMV Medical Information Division, a marketing research and consulting firm specializing in medical imaging.

The popularity of this modality will continue to grow, according to Lorna Young, IMV senior director of market research. Her analysis of the IMV database indicates that 42% of sites surveyed in 2005-2006 are planning to buy DR and another 24% are planning to buy DR and computed radiography.

CR may be whetting the appetite for digital x-ray, as this modality, which replaces film with a phosphor plate, allows sites to go digital while extending the life cycle of installed x-ray equipment.

But not all interest in CR turns to DR. Among the sites reporting plans to purchase x-ray equipment from late 2005 to 2008 and beyond, 23% plan to buy CR rather than DR.

"If they are adding rooms, they are adding DR," Young said. "But if they are just upgrading rooms, they are upgrading with CR."

IMV analysts estimate that in 2005-2006, the 4860 hospitals in the U.S. were operating 16,510 radiography systems, both conventional and digital. Most new equipment purchases at these sites are designed to convert departments to digital imaging. But conventionalists still hold sway over a substantial number of planned purchases.

About 11% of IMV survey respondents planning to buy x-ray equipment in the coming years will buy film-based systems. These stalwarts are counterbalanced by the relatively few sites that have transitioned completely to DR or plan to do so in the near future, Young said. The middle is populated by a mix of technologies.

"It's usually a combination of CR and DR or a combination of conventional, CR, and DR," she said.

The trend toward digital apparent in the IMV data, however, is unmistakable. Confirming this trend, Trixell reports rising demand from OEMs for its flat panels. The firm supplies not only Philips and Siemens but also some 30 other companies, including Kodak, Swissray, and Toshiba, according to Maisonnier. These companies buy Trixell's three types of flat panels: a large-format digital radiography detector, a detector for cardiac imaging, and one for vascular imaging.

An expanding Trixell portfolio will likely stoke demand for digital components even more. System integrators are now testing the Trixell prototype of a large-format radiography and fluoroscopy detector. This could be built into end-user products shown at the 2007 RSNA meeting, according to Maisonnier. The Pixium RF 4343, at 17 x 17 inches, is being groomed to acquire data for a single radiograph in one second and provide 30 frame-per-second images for fluoro exams.

Further away but already in development at Trixell is a portable radiography detector. Distinguishing this product will be its wireless transmission of data, allowing the unit to be configured as part of hand-carried or cart-based products, and its cesium iodide scintillator, which allows for high-resolution imaging. The Pixium 3543, measuring 14 x 17 inches, will be equipped with slots that allow it to fit into a docking station for optional data transfer and battery charge.